Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Pork and coriander rissoles with sticky coconut rice

These rissoles are really easy to make and have a lovely, light flavour from the coriander and lemon. This amount makes 4 to 6 patties, depending how big you make them and how hungry you are.

What you need:
500g pork mince
1 shallot
2-3 cloves of garlic
handful fresh coriander leaves
zest of a lemon

For the rice:
50g basmati rice
50ml slightly sweetened coconut water

What to do:
Blitz the shallot, coriander and garlic in a food processor or chop very, very finely. Put into a mixing bowl with the pork mince, lemon zest and seasoning, then work it all together. Shape into burger patties and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. To cook, fry them in a little vegetable oil for about 6 minutes on each side.

To make the rice, put the basmati is a sieve and rinse well under the cold tap until the water runs clear. Put in a pan and add the coconut water. Bring it to the boil, then put a tight lid on it and turn the heat right down until is just simmering. It should take about 12 minutes for all the liquid to be absorbed and for the rice to be plump and sticky.
Cook's tips:
Uncooked rissoles can be frozen - wrap well in cling film, separately, then pop them in a container or freezer bag. They need to be thoroughly defrosted before cooking.

Coconut water is widely available now. Most supermarkets stock it and you can also find it in Asian grocery stores and health food shops. I like the plain version to drink but the slightly sweetened variety, which often has coconut shreds in it, is my preference for the rice. Add a small pinch of sugar to the coconut water if you only have the unsweetened sort. If you can't find coconut water, a mix of about 30ml low-fat coconut milk and 20 ml water works well.

It's a good idea to start the rice before you start frying the rissoles - it needs time to come to the boil and if it's ready before the rissoles, just take it off the heat and leave the lid on to keep it hot until you're ready to plate up. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

10-minute Thai crab soup

As the weather cools, my thoughts start turning to soups. I like this recipe because it's both warming and quick to make, plus it's mostly store-cupboard ingredients, plus the sort of veg you'd normally have to hand - at a pinch you could raid the freezer. This makes one bowlful.

What you need:
1 small tin of crab meat
1 small onion, chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 red or green pepper, sliced
Thai curry paste
Vegetable oil
150ml vegetable stock
1/3 can coconut milk
Chopped fresh coriander

What to do:
Heat a small amount of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and pepper over a medium heat until they start to soften. Add a generously heaped teaspoon of the curry paste, cook for a couple of minutes then add the stock and the spring onion. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, add the coconut milk, bring back to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes more then dish up. Sprinkle a little chopped coriander on the top before eating.

Cook's tips:
This recipe is very flexible. Substitute a handful of fresh or frozen prawns if you don't like crab. The pepper for me is a must, but I sometimes swap the other vegetables and use some beansprouts if I have them to hand, or a few sliced mushrooms, some julienned carrot or French beans. For a more filling soup, add noodles - I like to stir in some glass noodles a minute before plating up.

Green Thai curry paste will add more heat and sour if you prefer it. You can add some depth to the soup with a splash of fish sauce.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Lamb in date and lemon sauce

Poor, neglected blog. It's not that I've not been cooking. I have. I've just not been cooking much of my own food. Instead, I've been cooking other people's.

The problem with liking your food is it likes you back. And it got to the point where my hips were too gourmet-sized for my liking. At the start of August, I began fasting twice a week on the 5:2 "diet". I'm seeing very good results already but it means that 2 days a week I have been calorie-counting rigorously, planning my meals for those days and also being a lot more aware of what I eat on "normal" days.

Cooking on fast days is pretty much routine now for me, nearly 6 weeks in. I've been eating someone else's skinny version of shakshuka for a very late breakfast most times and dipping in and out of several 5:2 cookbooks. I've also discovered some of my favourite food bloggers are doing 5:2 too (see, cooking leads to gourmet-sized hips). Lavender and Lovage and Big Cook Tiny Kitchen have both been tagging their "thin" recipes and I'm enjoying exploring them.

But to the lamb. I've been cooking this on and off for years - the sweet, sticky sauce is offset by the lemon's tartness and the savoury notes of the lamb and the shallots. It's very simple to cook and makes 2 portions.

What you need:
2 lamb fillets (or decent-sized chops)
1 shallot, finely diced
A handful of fresh dates
1 lemon, juiced
A pinch each of ground cumin and ground coriander
Olive oil
A few almond flakes

What to do: 
Stone the dates, chop roughly and put in a pan with the lemon juice, the spices and a splash of water. Cook down over a low heat, crushing the dates with the back of a wooden spoon as they soften, until you are left with a thick, sticky mush. Add a little more water if if you think it needs it. Season well.

While the dates are cooking, pour a generous glug of olive oil into a hot frying pan and brown the meat quickly on both sides. Lift out, put in an ovenproof dish and turn the hob heat down. Sauté the shallots gently until transparent. Tip the shallots over the lamb, scraping all the oil and any crusty bits out of the pan too.

Pour the sauce over the lamb, sprinkle a few flaked almonds on the top and bake in the oven at 180C for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a bulghur salad.

Cook's notes:
Don't use the dried, syrup-laden dates that come in an oblong box with a plastic fork and are usually sold in the run-up to Christmas. They are far too sweet. You can easily find fresh dates in Turkish or Middle Eastern grocers - it's possible to pick up a box for £1-2. Keep an eye out in supermarkets too - as I type this, Asda is selling a box of fresh dates for £2. 

The bulghur salad has clean, sharp flavours that help cut through the richness of the lamb. To make it (serves one), cook a small portion of bulghur according to the packet instructions. Dice 5cm of cucumber, slice a spring onion diagonally and extract the seeds and juice from half a small pomegranate. Mix well with the bulghur and add a little roughly chopped parsley. Dress with a little olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar and a little salt and pepper.