As followers of my blog know, I ran my first ever pop up dinner on Saturday night, at the beautiful workshop venue Les Soeurs Anglaises in the Dordogne. Armed with fresh herbs, fiery chillies and a vat of fish sauce (note to self – make sure you have the lid on tight before transporting in the car!) and aided by the brilliant Sue Holland in the kitchen; her husband Ian, front of house and my Ian, head waiter (and photographer extraordinaire) we got through the evening with no mishaps or food disasters.
Guests arrived promptly at 7pm and were seated in good time by 7.30pm. The amuse bouche – an explosion of Thai flavours – Betel leaves, home smoked trout, garlic, chilli paste, nam jim, herbs and salmon roe was followed by a Thai green curry soup, with a choice of either prawn, chicken or vegetarian. The main course for meat eaters was one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes, Caramel pork belly and was served with steamed jasmine rice and a tangy Green papaya salad that balanced the sweet richness of the pork. Vegetarians didn’t miss out on big flavours as they enjoyed Puffed tofu with chilli tamarind sauce, the rice and papaya salad.
From the convivial hum emanating from the dining room it seemed everyone was happy and the clean plates arriving back to the kitchen confirmed this. With the meal two thirds complete, Sue and I were able to catch our breath before adding the finishing touches to the dessert – Roasted tamarind pineapple with coconut sorbet and coconut caramel brittle.
The evening drew to a close with the coffee or jasmine tea and diners left satisfied and full. The pop team had survived the night and we are all looking forward to hosting our next pop up – sometime in late April or early May.
I would like to thank my co-workers and of course Katie and Mike, owners of Les Soeurs Anglaises, for not only allowing us to use their venue but for gathering friends and family and spreading the word.
After the excess of the Christmas period this is a light yet comforting Chinese steamed fish recipe. I use cod but you could use any firm white fish such as bream, snapper or ling.
2 tbs light soy sauce
1 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
5 cm piece root ginger, peeled
4 x 200 g white fish fillets, such as cod, snapper or ling
100 ml chicken stock
3 tbs Shaoxing Chinese rice wine
4 baby pak choi, quartered
4 large spring onions, very thinly sliced
2 tbs peanut oil
coriander leaves, to garnish
plain boiled rice, to serve
Combine the soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a jug. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and set aside.
Cut the peeled ginger into thin slices and then into thin strips or julienne. Place the fish on a deep heatproof plate (an enamel plate is ideal – or use foil to shape into a bowl) set in a large bamboo steamer. Scatter over half the ginger and pour in the stock and rice wine.
Top the steamer with a lid and place over a saucepan of lightly simmering water. Cook for 5 minutes and then carefully pop the pak choi into the steamer over the fish. Cover and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Place the peanut oil in a small pan and heat gently until the oil is hot and starting to shimmer.
Transfer the fish and pak choi to serving plates, scatter over the remaining ginger and the spring onions and immediately pour over the hot oil, to soften the ginger and onions. Sprinkle over the coriander and serve with small bowls of rice.
Sesame and soy duck fillets and green papaya salad
Green papaya is a used extensively in Thai and South East Asian cooking where it is traditionally served as a refreshing salad. The slightly tart quality of the fruit absorbs the sweet salty dressing perfectly, a perfect foil to the richly flavoued duck.
4 x 200 g duck breast fillets
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs fish sauce
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
750 g green papaya, peeled, halved and seeded
2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch each fresh Thai basil, coriander and mint
125 g grape cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tbs dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped
3 tbs fish sauce
3 tbs caster sugar
2 1/2 tbs fresh lime juice
2 small red chillies, thinly sliced and seeded if wished
Thai crispy fried shallots, to garnish
Marinate the duck. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Score the skin of each duck breast several times with a sharp knife, add to the marinade, cover with cling wrap and chill for 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200c. Remove the duck from the marinade and rub dry with kitchen paper, sprinkle the skin with sea salt. Heat a heavy based ovenproof frying pan and sear the duck skin down form 1 minute until golden. Turn the duck breast oven, transfer to the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the papaya and cut into long thin strips or julienne. Place in a bowl and add the cucumber, herbs and cherry tomatoes. Whisk together the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice until the sugar is dissolved and stir in the chillies.
Thinly slice the duck breast and add to the salad with the dressing. Toss well, divide between plates and serve scattered with the peanuts and the fried shallots.
Barbecued chicken with sumac, pomegranate molasses and mograbiah
Here I use a whole chicken, butterflied, so it cooks evenly on the barbecue. Alternatively use chicken thigh joints and cook for 10-12 minutes each side.
1.75 kg free-range organic chicken
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 tbs ground sumac
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp clear honey
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice 1/2 lemon
200 g mograbiah or pearl couscous (see tip)
50 g picked watercress leaves
50 g dried cranberries
50 g blanched almonds, toasted and chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tbs each chopped fresh mint and parsley
salt and pepper
Ask your butcher to butterfly the chicken for you. Combine half the oil, sumac, cinnamon and salt and pepper and rub all over the chicken. Leave to marinate overnight. Return to room temperature 1 hour before cooking.
Preheat the barbecue for 10 minutes until hot. Place the chicken skin side up on the barbecue plate, close the lid, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes. Flip chicken over and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (to test skewer the leg meat, if the juices run clear it’s cooked).
Whisk together the remaining oil, honey, molasses, garlic and lemon juice and season to taste.
Transfer the cooked chicken to a board, chop into 8 large pieces (a meat cleaver or large knife is good for this) and place on a large platter with any juices. Pour over the dressing over the chicken and leave to rest in for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the salad. Cook the mograbiah in lightly salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain, refresh under cold water and drain again, shaking off excess water. Place in a large bowl, add a glug of olive oil, stir well and leave to cool. Stir in the watercress, cranberries, almonds, spring onions and season to taste. Spoon onto plates and top with the chicken using the beautiful juices to dress the salad.
Tip: Mograbiah is a larger variety of couscous often referred to as pearl couscous and is used in the same way. It is great in salads or can be used to thicken soups and stews. It is available from most larger supermarkets or specialist food stores.
The first of my monthly Cook Club courses took place last week with great success. The concept of cook club is to offer people who live locally in SW France the chance to join me for a 4 hour cooking session and learn to cook dishes from around the world and craft their culinary skills with courses on all food subjects. Living here in France is great but occasionally we all yearn for something else and so we began with Asian noodles.
On the menu this week were Salmon and spring onion gyoza, Steamed scallop and chive dumplings, Green papaya, crispy pork and vermicelli noodle salad and a classic Prawn pad Thai (stir-fried noodles).We began by filling the gyoza wrappers and dumpling wrappers and made up their delicious but totally different sauces. Next came the green papaya salad which we left to one side, ready to assemble just before lunch, whilst we finished off prepping up the Pad Thai. After a full-on morning of cooking and learning about noodles we sat down together to enjoy the fruits of our labours……….. delicious!
Trim the scallops, cutting away the grey muscle attached at one side and cut into small dice. Place in a bowl with the bean shoots, garlic, chives, soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil and stir well.
Lay the wrappers flat on a board and place a teaspoon of the scallop mixture in the center. Brush around the edges with a little water and draw the sides up and around the filling pressing together to seal. Transfer each one to a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Pop the base of each dumpling in a dish of oil and transfer to a medium-sized bamboo steamer. Cover and steam over a pan of simmering water for about 8-10 minutes until firm and cooked through. Serve with the dressing, garnished with shredded spring onions.
Szechuan chilli dressing
50ml sunflower oil
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon black vinegar
1 teaspoons caster sugar
¼ teaspoon Szechuan pepper
Heat the oil in a small saucepan until it just starts to shimmer, remove from the heat and stir in the chilli flakes. Set aside for 30 minutes and then strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and serve as required.
If you are making ahead of time omit the pepper, adding it just before serving
Salmon and spring onion gyoza
125 g skinless salmon fillet, boned
1 spring onion, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon Mirin
1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
10-12 gyoza wrappers
1/2 tablespoon sunflower oil
black sesame seeds
Cut the salmon fillet into small dice and place in a bowl. Add the spring onions, Mirin and soy sauce and stir well to combine.
Using 1 wrapper at a time, lay flat on a clean board and place a spoonful of the salmon mixture on one half of each wrapper. Dampen the edges with water, fold in half and turn edges over, pressing together well to seal.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the gyoza on one side until really browned. Add 100ml water and simmer, partially covered for 3 minutes until the water is evaporated. Fry for a further 1 minutes until crisp. Transfer to serving dishes and drizzle over the dipping sauce.
Noodle dipping sauce
Makes: 150 ml
100 ml dashi stock
11/2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
11/2 tablespoons Mirin
1/4 teaspoon caster sugar
Combine the dipping sauce ingredients together and chill until required. This will keep indefinitely in a screw top jar in the fridge.
Green papaya and crispy panchetta salad
150 g dried rice vermicelli noodles
150 g pancetta, diced
150 g green papaya, peeled, halved and seeded
1 cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
a good handful fresh mint, coriander and Thai basil
125g grape cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 red bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced and seeded if wished
4 tablespoons dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 tablespoon roasted rice powder
crispy fried shallots, to serve
Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Soak for 20 minutes until just tender. Drain and then dry the noodles on a clean tea towel and place in a large bowl.
Dry fry the panchetta in a small frying pan over high heat until crisp and golden. Set aside to cool.
Thinly slice the papaya and cut into long thin strips or julienne. Add to the noodles with the cucumber, herbs, cherry tomatoes and panchetta.
Whisk together the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add to the salad, toss well and divide between plates. Top with the peanuts and powdered rice. Serve with crispy fried shallots.
Prawn Pad Thai
90g dried rice stick noodles
6-8 medium raw prawns, peeled and de-veined
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons grated palm sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind water
4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
125 g firm tofu, diced
2 red shallots
2 garlic cloves or 1 small bunch garlic chives
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon dried shrimps (see Store Cupboard ID pages)
a pinch cayenne pepper
125 g bean sprouts, trimmed plus extra to serve
lime wedges, to serve
Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 20 minutes stirring to ensure they separate. Drain well. Prepare the prawns. Shell and remove the black vein from the back, wash and pat dry.
Place the fish sauce, palm sugar, white sugar and tamarind water in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok, add the tofu to the pan and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes until crispy. Remove from the pan.
Add the prawns (with a little extra oil, if needed) and stir-fry for 2 minutes until pink, remove with a slotted spoon.
Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and fry over a medium heat for 30 seconds and pour in the beaten egg. Lower the heat and cook, stirring gently for 10 seconds until starting to set.
Return the tofu to the pan along with the cooked prawns, dried shrimp and noodles and stir-fry over a high heat until the noodles start top brown.
Add the sauce and a pinch of cayenne stirring constantly, until everything is heated through. Stir through the half beansprouts.
Transfer to a platter and sprinkle over the remaining beansprouts, peanuts, coriander and cayenne pepper and serve with lime wedges.
For my final slurp I wanted to share two more recipes from my book, Oodles of Noodles. Deciding which recipes to choose was quite hard, but in the end I have opted to blog a recipe from the remaining chapters in order to give you a good balance of just what to expect from the book. So we have a pretty, Japanese-inspired noodle salad with shredded chicken, fresh cool vegetables and a traditional sesame dressing. It is an explosion of textures and flavours and the overall impression you get with the first mouthful is one of freshness and well being; perfect for a light lunch.
In contrast my second choice is a far punchier and full-on crab noodle stir-fry. I love this recipe with it’s robust sweet, hot sauce, big chunks of delicious fresh cooked crab and wonderfully slippery egg noodles. It really is worth sourcing a good seafood supplier so the fresher the crab the better. If you don’t fancy preparing the crab yourself most fishmongers will happily do this for you and as long as you keep the crab well chilled and cook the dish the same day, the crab will be fine.
Let me know how you go, I’d love to get some feedback.
Chicken noodle salad with sesame and soy dressing
Photo Ian Wallace
This summer salad can be made using any Japanese noodles. When researching this book I came across these black rice noodles, which make a startling contrast to the different vegetables and micro herbs. The end result is striking.
250 g dried black rice noodles
250 g cooked chicken breast fillet
100 g radishes, trimmed
2 carrots, trimmed
125 g mange tout, trimmed
1/2 cucumber, seeded
Japanese micro herbs
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 small shallot, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dashi stock (see recipe page)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated root ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Make wafu dressing
Place all the dressing ingredients in a screw top jar and shake well until amalgamated. Use as required.
Plunge the noodles into a large saucepan of boiling water. Return to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes until al dente. Drain noodles and immediately refresh under cold water, washing well to remove any remaining starch. Drain again and dry thoroughly on a clean tea towel. Place noodles in a large bowl.
Shred the chicken into pieces and add to the noodles. Prepare the vegetables. Thinly slice the radishes, thinly slice and then shred the carrot into strips, thinly shred the mange tout. Cut the cucumber into thin batons.
Arrange all the ingredients on a plate, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss well together. Scatter over micro herbs and sesame seeds. Serve at once.
Crab and noodle stir-fry (Malaysia)
Photo Ian Wallace
This Malay version of Singapore crab was served to me on a trip to a small island, rather unattractively named Mud Island. However where there’s mud there are mud crabs and this tiny island on stilts, just off the west coast of Malaysia, is home to thousands of crabs and almost as many restaurants serving delicious platefuls of crab any which way. This was my choice and it was awesome.
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
3 cm piece root ginger, peeled and chopped
2 small red bird’s eye chillies
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
50 ml Shoaxing rice wine
250 ml tomato passata
250 ml chicken stock
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoons ketchup manis
1 kg fresh crab, prepared (see tip)
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
400 g fresh egg noodles, or 200 g dried
shredded spring onions, to garnish
Place the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies in a blender and puree to make a smooth paste, stir in the shrimp paste. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the paste for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Add the rice wine and simmer for 1 minute then stir in the passata, stock, soy sauce and ketchup manis and cook for 10 minutes until thickened.
Add the prepared crab and spring onion, stir well, cover the pan and simmer for 5-8 minutes until the crab is cooked through. Meanwhile, plunge the noodles into a large saucepan of boiling water and cook for 4 minutes until al dente. Drain the noodles, shake well to remove excess water and transfer to a large platter. Spoon the crab sauce over the top and serve sprinkled with extra spring onions.
Tip: Its best to use a live crab for this, so ask your fishmonger to kill the crab for you and if possible to cut the crab up ready to stir-fry. Alternatively view the process online to see how to do it yourself. If you can’t face this use 1 kg cooked crab claws, cracking the shells with a hammer and continue as above
Twelve months ago (hard to believe how fast last year passed by) I was in London working on my latest cook book for best ever publishers Ryland, Peters & Small. The book, Oodles of Noodles was published later in the year and has been very well received – it’s always a thrill to know that not only has a book been published, but people have bought, read and cooked from it – so I wanted to share some of the recipes over the next few weeks.
The recipes were inspired by my travels throughout Asia as well as my years spent in Sydney which is chock full of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Korean restaurants. Hopefully you will enjoy cooking and eating them as much as I did researching, developing, writing and testing the recipes.
I also hope you enjoy the evocative images so beautifully shot by Ian Wallace and styled by the very talented stylist Tony Hutchinson. Thanks also to to Sonia, Leslie and Julia at RPS.
I am beginning with the title recipe, a fabulous Vietnamese soup. Enjoy…….
Vietnamese beef pho
When I am visiting a city with a Vietnamese population I always try and make a trip to wherever the majority of Vietnamese have settled so I can treat myself to an authentic beef pho. It’s the large baskets of colourful herbs and condiments that give this classic soup its freshness and that unique flavour and texture I love so much.
1 kg beef short ribs
5 cm piece root ginger, sliced and bruised
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 whole star anise, bruised
2 cinnamon sticks, bruised
400 g dried rice stick noodles
350 g beef fillet, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
juice 1 lime
125 g bean sprouts, trimmed
2 red bird’s eye chillies, chopped
a handful each of fresh Thai basil, Vietnamese mint and coriander
6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
Put the beef ribs in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer fast for 10 minutes then drain and wash ribs. Return ribs to the pan and add 2 litres more cold water along with the ginger, onion, garlic, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 11/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
Remove the ribs from the stock and set aside to cool. Thinly shred the meat discarding bones. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and let cool. Refrigerate both the meat and the stock overnight.
The next day, soak the noodles in hot water for 20 minutes, drain and shake dry. Divide noodles between 4 large soup bowls. Meanwhile, remove the layer of fat from the cold stock and return the pan to the heat until boiling. Stir in the shredded meat, raw beef, fish sauce, salt, sugar and lime juice. Spoon the soup over the noodles and top with the bean sprouts. Serve soup with a plate of the garnishes in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.