Tom Yum Soup

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One of my favourite soups to make at home is tom yum soup. I learned a version of it at the Chiang Mai cooking school and never looked back since. It’s dead easy to make from scratch and even adding tom yum paste is optional. Granted, the ingredients aren’t the easiest to find, but I’m finding that more and more shops are stocking them. Some of my local supermarkets even sell tom yum starter packs with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, shallot, lime and chilli in them. What  I normally do is buy a bit more of the herbs when I see them, prepare them and chuck them in the freezer. With a bit of forward planning, a fragrant spicy soup can be made from frozen to tummy in minutes. If you’d like the soup a little spicier, there’s no need to add more chilli, just pound the chilli padi into smaller bits.

For today’s soup, I had some seafood and plenty of prawns and their shells. I also had some spare chicken bones and made a lovely stock from boiling the bones and the prawn shells and heads together for about 10 minutes. The prawn heads, especially when I squeezed out the orangey guts, gave the stock an intensely briny prawn flavour. You can make the soup with plain water, it’ll still be fragrant but not as robust.

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Ingredients:
15 prawns, shelled
1 large squid, prepared
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
1 shallot, peeled
2 thick slices galangal
2 kaffir lime leaves
3 stalks lemongrass, cut diagonally into thick slices
1 chilli padi, smashed

1 small punnet cherry tomatoes (about 16)
1 small bag oyster mushrooms (about 12), torn into large chunks

juice of one big lime
2 tbsp fish sauce

1 bunch coriander, leaves only

Method:

  1. Make stock from the prawn shells and head by boiling them in 2 litres of water for 1o minutes. Strain the stock into a separate pot for making soup.
  2. Add the garlic, shallot, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli padi to the stock and bring to a boil. Next, add the prawns, squid, tomatoes and mushroom and bring to the boil again.
  3. Off the heat, add the lime juice and fish sauce sparingly, tasting as you go along, till you get the right balance of sour and salty.
  4. Serve, garnishing with coriander leaves.

Serves 4.

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Another Variation on the Tune of Anchovy

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Inspired by the pasta I had at Big D’s and also by the past due can of anchovies Mum dug out from the cupboard, I had to have a crack of my own version of the salty fishy stuff. As always when it comes to these weekday dinners, I was famished and tired from yet another long day in the office. In less than 20 minutes, I threw this together using stuff in the house and a mixture of herbs including some sad bits of coriander and spring onion Mum left in the fridge and some freshly bought flat-leaf parsley from the supermarket. Use whatever herbs you fancy, or whatever’s left in the fridge.

Anchovies can of course be very salty, but this varies enormously from brand to brand. Just taste as you go along before adding too much. Also, not salting the pasta helps too. I also add some chilli to spice things up a little. Here, I used some aglio olio e peperoncino powder Mum got from Italy (it’s otherwise inedible just on its own with pasta), although simply because it was another past due item begging to be used up. I’d also use fresh chilli or my usual standby of chopped chilli padi.

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil, preferably from the canned anchovies
6 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
small sheath spaghetti (enough for one)
5 anchovies tinned in oil
chilli, to taste
good handful of chopped herbs

Method:

  1. Start by sweating the shallots and garlic gently in the oil from the anchovies till barely golden brown.
  2. While still watching the shallots and garlic, boil the pasta in plenty of water till just before al dente. Do not salt the water.
  3. Going back to the shallots and garlic, add in the chopped anchovies and stir to break up into a paste. Sprinkle in the chilli and continue to stir.
  4. Toss in the pasta into the anchovy mixture, adding in a few spoonfuls of pasta water. Turn up the heat and stir till the water is absorbed and the mixture coats the pasta well. Add a few more spoonfuls of water if the mixture still doesn’t stick to the noodles.
  5. Slip in the herbs and stir, stir, stir.
  6. Serve immediately and devour.

For 1.

Comfort for Sickies

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I was sick and in need of some easy and good comfort food. Even though there wasn’t a great deal in the fridge, thankfully there was  chicken stock and chicken breast in the freezer, and a carrot in the fridge.  This porridge made me feel miles better. It’s so easy to make it probably doesn’t really need a recipe, but he goes anyway.

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Ingredients:

½ cup rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, sliced
1 chicken breast
fried shallots

Method:

  1. Add the rice and chicken stock to the rice cooker. Slide the carrots atop the rice and sit the chicken breast  above the carrots.
  2. Start the rice cooker. Check back every few minutes. Fish out the chicken breast once the mixture boils and set it aside.
  3. When the chicken has cooled, shred it.
  4. After about 20 minutes, check on the porridge. The carrots should be soft and the rice cooked. If it’s turned into rice, simply add water and stir till you get the right consistency.
  5. Add salt, soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. Top with fried shallots and serve.

Serves 2 sickies.

Kitchen Sink Frittata

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I ran out of fresh vegetables one day and was too lazy to venture out for more. As usual, it was time to raid the freezer and find something fairly healthy for lunch. The freezer yielded my usual supply of chopped spinach, petit pois, minced shallots, minced garlic and bacon, and I also found some frozen (!) red chillis.  I had some spare eggs and always keep milk in the fridge, so I was pretty much set. There were parmesan cheese and brined green peppercorns in the fridge too, so that I also tossed in. As I put back the peppercorns, I noticed a bottle of anchovies lurking in one of the compartments, so no prizes for guessing what went in next. DC commented that it was a surprise he didn’t break his teeth nibbling on the kitchen sink.

This is a very useful recipe for coming up with something very delicious and fresh-looking and tasting without putting in too much of an effort. It’s also a bit like fried rice or pizza in that it uses up leftovers. Toss whatever that seems vaguely yummy in it and it should turn out fine. Other things I’d add if I had it would include boiled potato slices, peppers, cheese cubes, tomato, courgettes. Well, pretty much any vegetable really. Go easier on the meat, but if you’re anything like me I doubt you’ll have much leftover meat hanging around anyway. In my recipe I give approximate quantities, just feel free to make it up as you go along. Just make sure that there’s enough egg to barely cover the filling and you’re cool.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp butter
2 rashers bacon, chopped
4 finely chopped garlic cloves
8 finely chopped shallots
cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
a few tbsp petit pois, thawed
1 large red chilli, chopped coarsely
2 anchovies, coarsely chopped
1 generous tsp green peppercorns in brine
3 eggs
a good splash of milk (about 2 egg shells full)
good grating of parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and brown the bacon till the fat is rendered. Add the garlic and shallot and saute gently till just fragrant. Don’t allow it to colour.
  2. Add in the vegetables, anchovies and green peppercorns and saute till the mixture is hot. Set aside in a bowl.
  3. In another large bowl, beat the milk and eggs together, then pour it onto the hot pan. Quickly spoon the hot spinach mixture over and spread gently. Stir very gently along the top of the frittata so that the egg and filling will mix. Turn the heat to low and cook till the middle is almost set, 5-10 minutes. Now’s a good time to preheat the broiler.
  4. When the top looks almost set, i.e. still wobbly but not liquid, transfer to the broiler and cook till set. Grate over a very generous layer of parmesan and return to the broiler. Cook till cheese is melted and brown. Remove from heat.
  5. Very carefully loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and invert onto a plate. Use kitchen gloves. Cut into wedges and serve with fresh brown bread.

Makes 8 generous wedges.

Mid-Week Herb Pasta

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As always, I hoped to finish up some things languishing in the fridge. I had two sad lemons and some fairly fresh coriander waiting around. A quick trip to the supermarket got me basil instead of the flat-leaf parsley I was hoping for, but rooting around in the freezer got me some butter and chopped shallots. I meant to have some kind of meat with this but was too tired to sort that out, so it was just chopped herbs and butter in this simple clean-tasting pasta. I’m sure this would go amazingly with some grilled fish, although DC thinks it’ll be phenomenal with lamb rack. We’ll just have to try both out before deciding!

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Ingredients:
linguine
1 generous knob butter
2 tbsp chopped shallots
good splash of dry vermouth, sherry or white wine
1 pack basil leaves, finely chopped
1 pack coriander leaves, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Boil the linguine in plenty of salted water till just approaching al dente.
  2. In a hot pan, melt the butter then gently saute the onions till slightly coloured.
  3. Add the vermouth, turn up the heat and bubble till reduced by half.
  4. Toss in the pasta, chopped herbs and lemon zest. Stir over low heat. If the pasta is not yet al dente, add a little of the water used to boil the pasta and stir till ready.
  5. Check seasoning and serve garnished with a lemon wedge and a sprig of basil.

Serves 2.

Red Curry Fried Rice

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I see fried rice as a way to use up leftovers yet not feel like I’m eating old stale food. When I cook rice, I always make sure to cook more so that if I ever want to make fried rice, day old rice is ready for frying. Don’t even bother trying this with fresh rice. It’ll just be soggy and spoil the texture.

Normally I like to start with some kind of rempah base, usually from a packet. A lot of times it’s tomyam or green curry. The day I made this, I ran out of my favourite green curry paste so I had to plump for some remnants of a pack of red curry paste. Other stuff languishing in the fridge were leftover tinned sardines in oil, a chunk of wong bok, a few limp red chillis,  and some coriander. From the freezer came petit pois, chicken breast and kaffir lime leaves. Add to that some taupok and fresh lime and dinner is sorted.

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Ingredients:
3 tbsp oil
1 cup leftover rice
2 eggs

1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped shallots
½ tbsp chopped ginger
2 tbsp red curry paste
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
4 chicken fillets, cubed
1 tinned sardine in oil, mashed
5 taupok, cubed
½ tbsp petit pois
5 red chillis, thickly sliced
fish sauce, to taste

coriander
lime wedges

Method:

  1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok and fluff the rice. Crack the eggs directly into the wok and toss in the rice. Wait a few seconds for the egg to set slightly then stir-fry the rice till it turns golden and the grains separate. Set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a wok and fry the garlic, shallot and ginger till fragrant. Add the red curry paste and kaffir lime leaves, keep frying till fragrant.
  3. Add in the chicken and keep stirring. Just before the chicken is cooked, toss in the sardines, tauok, petit pois and chillis, stir for a bit more.
  4. Finally, stir in the reserved eggy rice and season with fish sauce to taste.
  5. Serve garnished with coriander and lime wedges.

Serves 3.

A Very Decadent Breakfast Omelette

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I was a little tired of having the usual cheese or peanut butter in my breakfast sandwich. Inspiration hit when I looked at eggs and cheese sitting around in my fridge.  I wasn’t happy with just a plain cheese omelette. There was some aging  garlic and shallots in a corner of my kitchen, so that went into my recipe, as did some defrosted chopped spinach. I went slightly overboard with the butter for my omelette but that made it extra special and flavourful to perk up my breakfast. I suppose it also helped keep the omelette from sticking to the pan. DC insists that I add this line: he thinks it was very nice.

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Ingredients:

big knob butter
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
3 shallots, sliced thinly
4 nuggets of thawed frozen spinach (about a small handful)
1 small handful grated mature cheddar cheese
4 eggs
generous splash of milk

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat, then add the garlic and shallots. Fry till the shallots are soft and start smelling wonderful.
  2. Fish the garlicky shallots out into a large bowl and mix in the spinach and cheese. Season with sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir till well combined.
  3. Put the still-buttery pan back on medium, then briskly beat the eggs and milk together. Pour into pan and let set. If bubbles form, burst them with a wooden spatula to help it cook faster. When the omelette has just about set, smear the spinach and cheese mixture gently onto one half.
  4. Carefully fold the omelette over and wait for the cheese to melt. Serve as soon as you can, though it tastes gorgeous cold too.

Makes 2 giant portions or 4 regular ones