Seafood Laksa

There is something positively Summery about Laksa. Maybe it’s the fragrant lemongrass, the zesty lime or the tropical coconut, but, for me, it’s a perfect meal for a sultry Summer’s evening.

The key to a winning Laksa is the paste. I use a mini blender to make mine but if you do not own any electric whizzardry you could chop very very finely or use brute strength via a pestle and mortar. This is also an excellent arm workout.

Once you have your luscious paste, feel free to veer away from the recipe by using any kind of fish / seafood and any veg you fancy. You could even make this 100% veggie by using veg stock, omitting the fish sauce and adding extra veg (brocolli, mange tout, baby sweetcorn, peas, spinach or bak choi) and some lovely tofu.

This is speedy and easy, leaving you with more time to enjoy a summers evening with a little glass of something wonderful.

Seafood Laksa

Ingredients

  • 5cm fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • A small bunch of spring onions, roughly chopped
  • A heaped teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 400ml can coconut milk
  • 800ml chicken or fish stock
  • 1 lemongrass, chopped in half
  • 1 heaped teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into small batons
  • A couple of big handfuls of edamame beans
  • 250g raw prawns
  • 4 white fish fillets, chopped into chunks
  • 300g noodles
  • A bunch of coriander, chopped
  • 1 lime, quartered

Method

  • First of all make your paste by whizzing your ginger, garlic, chilli, spring onions and turmeric in a food processor.
  • Now heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the paste for a couple of minutes.
  • Pour in the coconut milk and stock, lemongrass, sugar, fish sauce, carrots and edamames and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the fish and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the prawns and cook for just a few minutes more until everything is cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, cook your noodles to the packet instructions and drain.
  • Add the noodles to the finished sauce and serve immediately with a generous scattering of coriander and a lime wedge.

Vibrant Root Veg Curry With Turmeric Rice & Cooling raita

The colours in this dish are quite lurid. Thanks, mainly, to the turmeric, which, I feel, always lends an air of Technicolor to food. Plus a whole heap of health benefits.  So it’s turmeric all the way, in the curry and in the rice too. 

Of course, the beetroot is no shrinking violet when it comes to colour.  There are sweet potatoes and potatoes in here but beetroot barges in and tinges the whole lot with its deep pinkish purple tones. Glorious!

This healthy bowl of tantalising curry is topped off with a generous dollop of onion and cucumber raita, which adds a perfect crunch and a welcome cooling effect.

Vibrant Root Veg Curry with Turmeric Rice & Cooling Raita

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the rice

  • 250g basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • Sea salt to taste

For the curry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A couple of medium sized potatoes, chopped into approx 2cm cubes
  • 1 large sweet potato (or 2 smaller ones), peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
  • A couple of largish beetroots (or 4 smaller ones), peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • About 200ml of water

For the raita

  • 450ml plain Greek yoghurt
  • 90ml milk
  • About an 8 cm chunk of cucumber
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • A good grinding of black pepper

Method

  • Before you do anything, put your rice in a saucepan, cover with water and leave it to soak while you get the curry bubbling away.
  • Heat your oil in a large pan and add the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds, frying for just a few seconds.
  • Add the vegetables along with the rest of the spices and stir, cooking for about 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and water, stir again, and simmer for about 20 minutes until the veg is tender.
  • While the curry is simmering away, get on with the rice. Rinse it well after its soaking and then drain.
  • Heat the oil in a pan, which will hold your rice and when hot add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Then tip in the rice (be careful as the oil may splutter). Stir in the turmeric, chilli, salt and puree. Pour over enough water to cover the rice by about 1.5cm. Bring to the boil then simmer very gently, with a lid on, for about 10 minutes.
  • Once the rice has absorbed the water, turn the heat out and leave the rice to sit for a while. If it still looks really waterlogged but the rice is cooked, just drape a clean tea towel over the pan and leave for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Finally for the raita: Chop your chunk of cucumber in half and scoop out the seedy, watery middle. Chop the cucumber into small pieces, then mix all of the raita ingredients together.

Scot Mex! Veggie Haggis Tacos

Fusion food. Maybe not at it’s very pinnacle of sophistication, but a blooming tasty weekend family feast let me tell you my friend.

Vegetarian haggis is delicious. I’ve never tried the traditional meat filled version. Why would I when this one is bursting with peppery flavour and packed with mouth pleasing texture. Mmmm.

When my children were a bit younger, and didn’t have quite as gargantuan appetites, I sometimes had a bit of leftover haggis and I’d try to reinvent these morsels into a crowd pleasing meal the next day. The family favourite was, hands down, veggie haggis spaghetti bolognese…

…until now. I’m always up for a bit of foodie fun so Scot Mex tacos is right up my calejon, that’s Spanish for alley don’t you know. See I’m just full of the fun!

Other than the Scottish twist on this Mexican classic, the chilli itself is pretty standard. Heaps of flavour delivered courtesy of cumin, coriander, smoked paprika and just a smidge of oregano. Deepened gloriously by a little cocoa powder.

I serve this with a really simple guacamole, a sweetcorn and black bean salsa, grated cheese and iceberg lettuce. I dont suppose it’s particularly authentic, it just happens to be what we love. Add soured cream if that’s your want.

The one thing I wish I had thought to use for this recipe is a Scotch Bonnet chilli. Not necessarily for the flavour, just the wee nod to Bonny Scotland.

Scot-Mex Veggie Haggis Tacos

Serves 5 – 6

Ingredients

  • 1 vegetarian haggis, cook according to packet instructions
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cans of tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • A can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to your taste
  • A big handful of chopped coriander
  • A box of tacos (there are usually 12 in a box), cooked according to packet instructions
  • Accompaniments I’ll list at the end as they’re very much optional

Method

  • First cook your haggis. If you have a microwave it will ready in moments. If, like me, you don’t then it will take just over an hour in the oven so bear this in mind in your planning.
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan and gently fry your onions for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in your garlic, chilli and spices and cook for a minute or so.
  • Pour over the tomatoes, cocoa powder and beans and stir.
  • Simmer this aromatic pot of chilli for about half an hour on a low heat.
  • Once your haggis is perfectly cooked break it up a bit and add to the pot. Simmer a little longer to allow for a bit of Scottish / Mexican mingling.
  • Serve strewn with the chopped coriander and whatever else your heart desires.

My favourite accompaniments:

I wouldn’t consider eating this without a pile of grated cheese (cheddar or lancashire) and a mountain of iceberg lettuce. You can shred the lettuce and add to the tacos but we also like to keep some of the leaves whole and use them as healthier shells to stuff the chilli into.

Guacamole

I just smash up a couple of avocados with a good spritz of lime juice, fresh chilli, a pinch of cumin, a pinch of salt and fresh chopped coriander.

Black Bean & Sweetcorn Salsa

In a bowl mix together a can of black beans and a small can of sweetcorn with lime juice, a glug of olive oil, a pinch each of cumin and coriander, a couple of chopped spring onions, a very small crushed clove of garlic, half a chopped chilli, a handful of chopped coriander and plenty of salt and pepper.

Simple Elderberry Syrup

If you go down to the woods today… you might be lucky enough to find an elder tree dripping with deep dark red elderberries. Sorry to disappoint those with a penchant for picnics and teddy bears. But on the plus side you might not have to venture as far as the woods to find these treasures. There’s a lovely old elder tree right next to my suburban garden. 

If I catch them at them earlier in the year I love to pick the elderflowers and make homemade elderflower cordial.  I’d love to make elderflower champagne but I’m a bit worried about exploding bottles. I need to learn to live a little closer to the edge before I attempt it.

This year I missed out on the elderflowers so I was determined to get my hands on the berries.

Elderberries are absolutely chock a block with antioxidants, which give our immune systems a massive boost. So making a syrup now and digging into it over the autumn and winter months is a great way to help ward off colds and flu.

A word of caution with these berries – you really have to cook them or you might risk an upset tummy.  When raw these little berries are obnoxiously sour so you’d probably want to cook them anyway – nature’s way of keeping us safe. Also make sure you discard the leaves and stalks as these can be toxic.  A little vigilance is totally worth it for the sweet elixir you end up with.

This syrup is made with sugar but you could absolutely make it with honey, which would also cram in yet more healthy delights. I added a couple of slices of fresh ginger and a couple of cloves and the result is that the finished syrup is slightly reminiscent of cola. So when my youngest was under the weather a couple of days ago he slurped down his ‘medicine’ no questions asked. If you prefer, keep it simple and just go with the berries and sweet stuff.

You could use this as a cordial, drizzle over greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, add a dash to a cocktail or simply down a small shot when you feel your body needs a helping immune boosting hand.

Simple Elderberry Syrup

Ingredients

  • 500g elderberries
  • 400g sugar
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Optional flavour enhancers: a couple of slices of ginger and a couple of cloves

Method

  • First and foremost make sure you remove all of the stalks and leaves from the berries as these are toxic. Also discard any green berries.
  • You can gently pull the berries off the stalks or use a fork. I really like the fork method, which also cuts down on the staining of your fingers.
  • Give the berries a wash.
  • Tip them into a pan and cover with water (the water should be about 1cm over the berries). Add your ginger and cloves if you are using them. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  • Now strain through a sieve. Pour the liquid back into the pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Once cooled you can either bottle this and keep in the fridge or, to make it last even longer, freeze in ice cube trays.

Super smoked salmon and avo open sandwiches

I was in the bakery section of the supermarket yesterday and was feeling drastically underwhelmed by the rows and rows of white loaves with slightly different names: bloomers, farmhouse loaves, white sliced, batard etc etc. These are all very nice but none of them were calling ‘eat me, I’ll be your perfect lunch today’.

I was about to move on when I spotted a brown sourdough loaf shouting ‘take me’. And I did. From there it all slotted into place: lovely fresh brown loaf needs slithers of pink smoked salmon atop a tangy cream cheese.

When I got home I found a perfectly ripe avocado in the fridge (joy!), a bag of fresh dill and some lettuce (freshly picked from my Mother in Law’s garden). Heaven.

The colours in this sandwich are so delicate and attractive they simply have to be served as open sandwiches.

In every bite you have the tang of the sourdough, the cool cream cheese, the salty salmon, the creamy avo, the crisp lettuce and the grassy freshness of the dill. Get this sandwich in your life. Today.

Smoked Salmon & Avo Open Sandwiches

Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 – 6 slices of brown or white sourdough bread (depending on appetite)
  • Cream cheese (I like full fat)
  • 1 small packet of smoked salmon
  • 1/2 an avocado, peeled and sliced
  • A few sprigs of dill
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • A squeeze of lemon or lime
  • A few lettuce leaves

Method

  • First of all spread your bread generously with cream cheese.
  • Now gently tear up your smoked salmon and scatter over the bread.
  • Arrange the avocado slices next.
  • Scatter over the dill and add a modest grinding of black pepper.
  • Spritz over a little lemon or lime juice and artfully toss in a couple of leaves to complete this beautifully delicious tableau.

Fresh Mixed Currant compote

Years ago we planted fruit bushes in our back garden. Blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. For the first few years the currants and gooseberries were so sour. But kids notoriously love sour treats so it didn’t stop them nibbling on the ripe fruit every time they played in the garden. As a result no fruit ever made its way into the house.

Every year the harvest gets sweeter and more gloriously prolific but as the fruit bushes mature so do the children and picking berries and currants from the bushes seems to be losing its charm.

This year we had huge bowlfuls of currants which we have gobbled up with so many delicious meals: my faves were a red currant salad dressing drizzled over rocket and feta and as a substitute for blueberries scattered over pancakes with a generous pouring of maple syrup.

The remaining currants made their way into this simple compote. This is perfect for breakfast with yoghurt and granola or drizzled over porridge. It would also add a fresh fruity zing poured over pancakes or swirled through creamy vanilla icecream.

The great thing is that this freezes well. So you can make a batch and pop it into the freezer to enjoy over the Autumn and Winter months when warm afternoons picking berries and currants would otherwise be a distant memory.

Mixed Currant Compote

Recipe

Ingredients

  • About 200g redcurrants, blackcurrants or a combo of both
  • 2 – 3 heaped tablespoons of sugar (depending how sweet you like things)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Method

  • Put all of the ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil
  • Turn down to a slow simmer and cook for about 4 minutes