Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pork, thinly pounded please.

Meet hammer at work, originally uploaded by the_bashful_owl.

My favourite item in the kitchen may just be the meat hammer. Strange, as I simply adore my Ruby Red KitchenAid (I think that Ruby Red is her name, which is tragic) and would rescue her if a cyclone was coming. Ruby Red's twin-brother food processor comes close. As does the microplane (oh for perfectly grated cheese, garlic, ginger, chocolate, etc). I have some heart-shaped measuring cups, which are kitch and cute. I have an amazing heavy-based frying pan, which even the fella values. So why the meat hammer?

It is rarely used for one. It is old fashioned and speaks of my grandmother's era for another. I recall one as a child, peaking out of mum's utensil canister. It was one kitchen item I longed to play with, and often was permitted to. I love the big squares on one side and the little ones on the other - patterns, texture... I love the sound it makes when you are whacking your meat. I love the idea of being part of making your meal, so although I'm not doing the butchering I'm part of getting the meat to the table.

My pork intake is limited. At times it really puts me off in its porky form. Bacon, yep, ham, mmm hmm, pancetta, absolutely. But slabs of pork I'm not so sure about. Pork squashed thinly with a meat hammer, coated in crumbs and cheese, lightly fried until golden sounds okay though. When we need a "traditional" meal midweek at our house, this is what we eat. And my fella could consume up to half a dozen of these babies in one seating if they were offered to him. We also cook this dish as it is something we can prepare together. Someone has to make the breadcrumbs in the processor while someone is smashing up the pork chops. The fella cooks to pork to perfection, while I steam the veggies in the microwave and rummage for the mayo in the fridge. And whole egg mayo it must be please.

Fryin' up the pork, originally uploaded by the_bashful_owl.

Crispy Pork Chops
Serves 2 – 4 (4 at a pinch).

2 pork loin chops, bone in around 150 g each
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
2 ½ c. freshly made breadcrumbs
½ c. grated pecorino cheese
Pepper to season
Olive oil
Butter if desired

Using a meat hammer, thin out your pork chops until they are a bit less than 1 cm thick. If they end up huge in size, chop them in halt to have one bony bit, one fleshy bit.

Beat together the egg, mustard and thyme in a wide shallow bowl. Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and pepper on a plate. Dip your pork pieces into the egg mix, making sure they are covered well. Place on top of breadcrumb mix. Pat down, turn over and repeat. Try to get a thick even coating all over the pork. Place on a wire rack to dry while you prepare the remaining meaty bits.

Heat oil in a solid frying pan. Add a little butter if you wish. When things are hot, yet on a medium heat, cook the pork chops for around 5 minutes per side. You made need to cook them in batches.

Serve with freshly steamed broccoli, plenty of real mayonnaise and some more mustard. A slice of bread is nice too, as is some boiled potatoes.

From Nigella’s Feast by Nigella Lawson.

Crispy pork chops, originally uploaded by the_bashful_owl

Monday, October 26, 2009

In case of an emergency, bake these!

An earthquake struck Darwin town around midnight on Saturday/Sunday. And what a shock that was! I was lying in bed reading when all of a sudden the bed started rocking. And the mirrors of our built-in robes were visibly moving, and the walls were making noises. My screams of the fella's name were futile. "He must have fallen asleep in front of the telly" was my conclusion. Nope, rather he was standing very still in the middle of the lounge experiencing the quake with all limbs extended in order to feel the full force of the earth's movements.

My worries were that I may need to evacuate the building if it got worse. How would we get downstairs? Were lifts safe to use in case of an earthquake? Would I need to get some clothes on or was it okay to be nudie while escaping a collapsing building? What would we eat for breakfast if the fridge fell through the floor to the apartment below?

Thankfully I had a roll of these orange and poppy seed biscuits stored in the freezer, perfect food to enduring an earthquake. Baking them only takes 11 minutes, and the quaking lasted almost this long. So in case of an emergency, I recommend having some of these delicious biscuits ready to go. They may not erase the embarrassment of a nudie run down five flights of stairs in the middle of a little earthquake, but they will win friend and influence people. Once your face has returned to its normal colour and the earth has opened up and swallowed you whole.

This recipe is from one of my favourite baking blog queens, Joy the Baker. She bakes, with attitude and sass. Oh how I love her recipes, and her dedication to her craft. This was one of the first recipes I tried of hers, and it is the one I come back to most often.

Orange and Poppy Seed Biscuits
Makes around 48...

2 c. plain flour
½ tsp. bicarb soda
½. tsp salt
2 tbs. poppy seeds
1 c. sugar
Zest of 1 orange
150 g. butter, softened
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla essence
1 ½ c. chocolate bits

In a bowl, sift together flour and bicarb soda. Add the salt and poppy seeds. Stir well to combine.

In another bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest. Smash it around a little to get the sugar well into the zesty bits.

In your mixer, beat the butter for 2 minutes until soft and smooth. Stir in the sugar and zest. Mix for two minutes. Add the egg and yolk, mix until just combined. Add the vanilla and mix for a further two minutes. Reduce the mixer’s speed to low, add the flour mix until just combined.

Divide the mixture in half, shape into two logs of around 5 cm in diameter. Roll up each log in baking paper. Place in the freezer for at least thirty minutes to firm up. They can be frozen for up to four weeks, and then you are only fifteen minutes away from biscuits! Such a great idea.

When ready to cook the biscuits, pre-heat the oven to 180 ⁰C. Line two trays with baking paper. Unwrap one log, slice into 5 mm thick slices. Place onto the trays a few centimetres apart. Cook in oven for 11 minutes, rotating the trays half way through cooking. Cool slightly on the tray before cooking on a rack. Repeat the baking process as needed.

When the biscuits are cool, melt your chocolate. Using a knife, spread the bottoms of the biscuits with melted chocolate. Allow to set, maybe in the fridge if needed.

From Joy the Baker.

With tea perhaps..., originally uploaded by the_bashful_owl.

In times of trial and urgency, I also recommend a good cup of tea. Such as this Melbourne Breakfast from T2.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Egypt: Karnak, originally uploaded by Brooklyn Museum.

Crumble (verb): break or fall into small fragments; gradually disintegrate.

At times in life, things seem to crumble. One's hopes and dreams, relationships, careers, one's health, houses, old treasures such as letters and timber items.

Crumble (noun): dish of stewed fruit with a crumbly topping.

At times in life, one needs crumble. Preferably made with apples or rhubarb. Or dotted with blueberries. Or sprinkled with almonds and dried apricot pieces. Or made with pears and strips of orange zest. And swimming with custard. Even served in little tea cups. Or spooned out from a big bowl. Mmm, crumble.

This crumble was made for a dinner we had over the weekend. I slow cooked a chicken, lemon and garlic dish, as well as roasted potatoes in the oven. Things were timed to perfection, with minimal fuss at the last minutes. But then the guests were late, around 45 minutes late. So the meal was dry and lacking in lusciousness. Hurrah for the crumble, the dish that saved dinner. As my culinary prowess crumbled around me, the crumble won hearts...

Typically I would make my crumble using sugar syrup to poach the fruit in. This method instead cooks the apples in butter, ensuring they maintain some texture as well as their shape. The port adds depth of flavour and is beautifully enhanced by the sourness of the berries. The crumble topping is how I make crumble, with lots of texture and taste. None of this breadcrumb only crumble for me please.

Apple, Raspberry & Port Crumble
Serves 6 to 8 with custard and ice cream.

20 g butter
6 apples, peeled, cored & diced into medium pieces
300 g frozen raspberries, slightly defrosted
300 ml port
185 g sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Crumble topping:
60 g butter, softened
½ c. plain flour
½ c. raw sugar
½ c. oats
½ c. desiccated coconut

Pre-heat your oven to 180 ◦C.

Over a medium heat, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add the apple pieces. Stir well and cook for around 10 minutes until softened. Add the raspberries, port, sugar and cinnamon. Cover and cook for 8 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove fruit from the cooking liquid and transfer to a suitable round cooking dish. Continue to cook the liquid uncovered until it reduces to a syrup-like consistency. This may take up to 10 minutes. Stir it occasionally to ensure it does not catch and burn on the bottom. Pour this liquid over the fruit.

Make the crumble topping by combining all the ingredients. Mix it together well, rubbing the butter into the other ingredients. It is messy, but easy to do with your hands. The mixture should be chunky rather than sticky, getting towards being like breadcrumbs but not smooth. Crumble the topping over the fruit.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes, until golden in parts.

Serve hot with ice cream, warm with custard or even cold with yoghurt for breakfast the next day.

Adapted from Delicious magazine August 2007.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday morning muffins...

Up Side Down Muffins, originally uploaded by the_bashful_owl.

When I wake up on Saturdays, all I want to do is stay in bed, hug my fella and have breakfast magically appear on a tray for me. In reality, I wake up too early as my body has adjusted to working from 8 a.m., my fella is snoring away and no one had put the coffee on to boil. Drats!

But this Saturday was close to perfection. A late start after a late night so somewhat of a sleep in, video hits raging on telly, two pots of bialetti coffee brewing away and a few ripe bananas screaming out to be transformed. No pancakes this day though, as I was after a more labour-less approach to my morning. Rather, a minimal mix of a few bowls, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, twenty-five minutes later, and hot fresh muffins were there for the taking.

My somewhat slimmed down hips should have been protesting. Muffins for breakfast is really just eating cake. Particularly if they contain chocolate. But these have very little sugar, and lots of fruit in them. Or so I told myself...

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 7 giant ones.

2 c. self-raising flour
½ c. sugar
½ c. small chocolate chips
2 ripe bananas, or so
1 c. milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
20 g butter, softened
Spray oil, or similar for greasing your muffin pans

Pre-heat your oven to 180 ◦C. Grease a 6-hole Texan muffin tray with a spray of oil.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add sugar and chocolate chips. Stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, mash your peeled bananas. Pour in the milk, the beaten egg and some butter. Whisk it all together. It won’t be smooth, but try to get the butter broken up a bit.

Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Give it a really light mix, just making sure you don’t have big streaks of flour throughout your mixture. Spoon mix into the muffin trays, until they are around ¾ full.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until risen and golden. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Unfortunately I find that this makes just a little too much to only make 6 muffins. You will need to rinse out the pan, re-grease and bake the final muffin. If you only use 1 banana it will make 6 muffins, but then they are less banana-full in flavour. Tough decisions...

Serve warm. With coffee. Hot butter spread over is optional, but a necessity if you are my fella. These don’t keep for too long, so make them if a crowd is coming over. Or keep them in some Tupperware and microwave for 15 seconds before eating a day later.

Adapted from the Table to Table, Trinity Church Cookbook.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The fruits of the sea

We live so close to the ocean, it seems a waste not to make the most of it! But in reality, I've not once swam in the ocean in the Northern Territory nor do I make regular visits to the beach.

You see, there a no waves here. And waves for me are a huge appeal. Neither is it safe to swim. When one thinks of the Northern Territory, crocodiles generally come to mind. Sure, they are out there but they are not the main reason swimming in the beautiful ocean is generally only for the fool-heartedly brave. It's the stinging jelly fish that get you. The stingers are present year round, but particularly bad from October to May (which is when everyone is desperate to swim as it is so hot). And these stingers are serious - particularly if you are a child, elderly or have anything serious wrong with your health.
So my recent attempts to get the most out of being surrounded by water have involved the following: sipping cocktails from my balcony overlooking the water, eating fish and chips from the wharf, and purchasing locally caught fish from a supplier just down the road. The supplier is called Mr Barra and he stocks a wide range of seafood. Barramundi is his particular specialty. And these barramundi are so delicious, stuffed with lemon and fresh herbs, wrapped in paper and roasted in the oven... He also has locally caught banana prawns, scampi, jew fish, snapper...

The recipe that follows is a taste of the Top End. Prawns, freshly peeled and gently cooked. Lime zest from a local tree for that bit of zing. Perhaps there are a few things about it that aren't right, but it seems to work. I'm sure many Italian mamas would be stamping their feet at the idea of prawns and cheese. But cheese makes a risotto so creamy. And personally I struggle to make risotto and not include peas (risotto is so Italian, Italy is so Venice, Venice is known for the fresh peas in local meals).

Adapted somewhat from Donna Hay Magazine May/June 2006.

Lime, Prawn & Pea Risotto
Serves 6

1.5 L stock (veggie, chicken or fish)
20 g butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 c. aborio rice
¾ c. frozen peas
12 raw prawns, peeled and de-veined
Zest of 2 limes (or lemons if you will, or oranges...)
½ c. finely grated pecorino cheese
1 c. finely grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, with lid on, bring stock to the boil. Remove lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer the stock very gently while you make the risotto.

In a solid, large saucepan melt the butter mixed with olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, cook while stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and celery, cook for a further few minutes until the celery is softened somewhat. Add the rice, stir to coat and cook for two minutes.

Add a ladle-full of hot stock, stir while the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add the stock one ladle at a time until the rice is soft but still has some shape and texture when tasting it. This will take up to twenty-five minutes, so get a glass of wine, put on the news or some enticing tunes and stir away. If you stop stirring, it is likely that your risotto will stick to the bottom of the pan. This won’t be good. Persistence in stirring will pay off.

Stir in the peas and prawns. Mix well. Stir in the zest. Mix a little more. After three minutes, stir in the cheeses and mix for two minutes more. By this time the prawns will be cooked and delicious. Taste and season accordingly.

Serve risotto in shallow bowls. A glass of wine is mandatory. A salad on the side is optional.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leftovers for lunch...

Leftovers. Don't you love them? Have you ever loved a meal so much you made it just for the leftovers? I certainly have. To me a leftover is a perfect lunch the next day. A lady at work this week was saying that she only makes meals that can be leftovers! She lives alone, and will always prepare enough food for four people. She eats her fill, then puts the leftover serves into Tupperware and freezes them. When re-heating, she will add a few veggies perhaps (particularly if she has made a red chicken curry).

Now leftovers scream of a number of personality traits being needed to create them. One is that of a planner, who, like the woman from work, thinks ahead and is prepared. Another is that of the lazy person, who can't be bothered cooking so eats whatever is in the fridge. Another is perhaps a greedy guts, who always cooks far too much but longs to eat it. Which am I...

So, what is the best leftover meal? Lasagna is one dish that is certainly more solid the following day. And a curry always tastes better after being reheated. Pizza is good, but if microwaved becomes too soggy. Somethings dry out, others become smoosh. Others are perfection and made to be eaten later. My preference is currently pasta Puttanesca. The flavours seem to meld together well, the sauce thickens. It can be reheated without too much drying out, if you grate cheese over it before placing in the microwave. When my fella was away for three months recently, I made this dish once per week in order to have leftovers as it is so good.

Please make and enjoy. Use whatever pasta you like. I love the tube spaghetti. It's chunky yet slippery, so slurp it up.

Serves 4

300 g tube spaghetti
Good splash olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400 g diced tomatoes
½ c olives, pitted and finely sliced
1 chili, sliced
1 tbs capers, chopped
4 anchovies, chopped
Grated parmesan, to serve

Cook pasta according to packet instructions

Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic, cook for thirty seconds. Add tomatoes, olives, chili and capers. Cook for three minutes. Add anchovies, cook for a further two minutes. The sauce will become thick and delicious. Season to taste.

Pour sauce over cooked pasta. Add parmesan as desired.

Adapted from Australian Table magazine August 2007.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Turkish delights...

My husband's family knows he loves Turkish Delight. As a consequence we receive a gift of around 1 kg of the stuff every birthday. If Christmas is a bit lacking, more of it is given then too. At first I thought this was a wonderful thing. But now... When you find melted, gooey Turkish Delight in the cupboard it is more than a little off-putting. Also, there is only so much you can eat without feeling really ill. I've tried this too.

But we don't want the gift that keeps on giving to stop. This is not meant to be a complaint about the generous abundance of Turkish Delight, rather a post celebrating it's joys. For me, I love my Turkish Delight covered in chocolate and flavoured with rose water. I would prefer not to have any coconut on it, I don't mind it studded with pistachio nuts. The sugary-vanilla flavouring it okay, the clouds of icing sugar are messy but enticing. Oh, surely we have some tucked away I can dig into now...

"The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious." The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis.

So this recent kitchen experiment came out of my love of Turkish Delight. And my love of C.S. Lewis, and a bottle of rose water that was due to expire (who would have thought this stuff had a use-by date?). And a posting on Design Sponge for an irresistible-looking cocktail. I think this is my newest favouritest drink. Now what to do with all of the rose water cordial I made...

Rose water cordial. Delicious, potent stuff. I've tried mixing it with lemonade, and it is very drinkable. I've added some raspberry vodka to it. I've thought of drizzling it over some soaked dried apricots. Perhaps even brushing it over a freshly cooked orange cake. But the winner seams to be the suggestion from Design Sponge. Please try it, I implore you.

This recipe makes a lot of cordial. Maybe too much in fact. But I've stored mine in the fridge well sealed and it seems to be doing fine.

Rose Water Cordial
Makes around 1 L

2 1/2 c. water
4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. lime juice (I used bottled juice)
1/2 c. rose water

In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, bring sugar and water to the boil. Simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the juice and rose water. Return to the boil. Simmer again for a further ten minutes. By this stage the liquid will be thickened and syrupish.

Leave to cool before decanting into cordial bottles. Seal well and store in the fridge until ready to use.

From the Epicurious website, via Design Sponge.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Christmas preparations, cheers to that!

Christmas is in the air - already?

Sure enough, the supermarkets and department stores have had their decorations out since the first of October. I'm yet to see an ad on telly though, telling me to buy now in time for Christmas. But I'm sure they will come. While it is good to get in early and plan ahead, is this too far in advance? Perhaps.

As for me, I'm trying to be organised. We will be moving across Australia (literally from top to bottom) in the two weeks before Christmas. We are arriving Christmas Eve, and staying in a hotel until some time in the new year. So I'm trying to get ready. I've a few gifts set aside, ready to be wrapped and placed in a clearly marked "do not pack in the removalist truck" box. I'm contemplating when to send out Christmas cards. And most tastily, I've been preparing in the kitchen. What took my fancy was an old copy of Delicious magazine, from years back with lots of Christmas sweet treats to prepare. There were eggnog custards, chocolate and prune terrines, cinnamon ice cream and mulled wine sorbet. Gosh, I'm drooling. None of these are really make in advance treats, but the Christmas pudding vodka certainly is.

Sure, I tinkered with the quantities. I also added ingredients that are essential in my Christmas pudding. I doubled the original vodka specification and increased the infusion time. I also used a vodka recommended by my friendly bottle-o staff. They suggested an organic vodka that had a very "pure" taste and thus would not feature amongst all the Christmas puddingie goodness. Adjust flavours as you perceive necessary. And as for what to do with the delicious vodka soaked fruit, well a chocolate vodka fruit cake is baking in the oven as we speak.

Christmas Pudding Vodka
Makes around 1400 mls

2 bottles vodka (700 mls each or so)
250 g dark brown sugar
200 g sultanas
150 g dried apricots
150 g prunes
Juice and zest of two oranges
2 cinnamon sticks, snapped in half
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped
6 cloves
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 tsp mixed spice
A good grating of nutmeg

Simply place all the ingredients into a large bowl, or a container you can seal. Stir together well, over and attempt to make the stewing mix ant-proof (mine stood in another container that had a few centimetres of water in the base). Place in a cool, dark forgotten part of your home and leave for two weeks to infuse. Put the vodka bottles aside for later.

Two weeks later, strain your vodka into a jug. Push gently on all the fruit, etc, to get some of the residual liquid out. Strain again and decant into the vodka bottles. Seal well. Alternatively, decant into smaller bottles, label festively and cap tightly. These make lovely gifts.

Serve very well chilled, ideally with a slice of chocolate cake, a fruit mince pie or a velvet chocolate truffle.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Make me banana pancakes...

Do you debate it in your house? Crepes or pancakes I mean. Which is better? Who prefers what? What will be made? Growing up, my dad preferred the thick, fluffy pancake. Preferably smothered in butter, maple syrup and cream. And perhaps with ice-cream. Rather like the McDonald's hotcakes in fact. I would vote for paper thin crepes, topped with lemon and sugar. They would be rolled into a log and eaten in slices. My sister Rach was a gun at making choc-chip pikelets. Melty chocolate, smothered in dripping butter, napkins mandatory!

More recently, I have been converted to the thick and fluffy side. But with banana if you don't mind. Mmmmmm! Blame it on Jack Johnson if you will:

But baby, you hardly even notice

When I try to show you this

Song it's meant to keep you

From doing what you're supposed to

Like waking up too early
Maybe we could sleep in
I'll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like it's the weekend now...

Sure, I do only make pancakes on the weekend, so there's no pretending about that. But pancakes in our house signals a lazy morning. Waking up late, substituting breakfast for brunch. Brewing an endless pot of coffee in the Bialetti. Raiding the fridge for half-eaten jars of jam... My pick is for banana pancakes, if you please!

This recipe is from one of my most trusted cookbooks, Feast. A few alterations have been made to Nigella Lawson's original instructions. For example, she is light on the sugar. While bananas are sweet, I think a little more is needed. And how she gets 20 pancakes out of it, I'll never know. Read, make, enjoy...

Banana Pancakes
Makes 7

I ripe banana, or two if they are lying around
180 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarb soda
1 egg
300 ml milk
Splash of vinegar (or use 300 ml buttermilk and no vinegar if you have it handy)
2 tbs sugar
Butter, for cooking

In the bowl of your food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the butter. Blitz until smooth. Transfer into a jug and let it stand for a while. This can be done in the fridge for 30 minutes, and you will get a thick, frothy mixture. If you don’t have a food processor, mash the banana and add it to the liquid ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients after sifting them. Make a well in the middle of these ingredients and stir in the liquids.

Heat a frying pan or your trusty pancake cooker if you have one (ours was a gift that came from Aldi) to a medium heat. Grease the surface of your frying pan with butter on the back of a spoon. You really don’t want your pancakes to be swimming in butter, so this is a measured way of getting grease in without overdoing it. Pour in a good amount of batter, swirl pan around gently to dispurse the mixture and make your pancakes bigger. Cook until lots of bubbles appear and the underside is browning nicely. Flip and cook. Remove to a foil-lined plate. Keep the pancake warm under the foil while you repeat the process with the remaining batter.

Enjoy your pancakes with whatever toppings you prefer. Sliced banana and honey... butter and fig jam... maple syrup and ice-cream... lemon and sugar.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Laksa, yes please!

Darwin in a bowl. Here it is. Laksa as it should be, slurpy, messy, spicy and milky. It is done really well up in northern Australia. The proximity to S.E. Asia is a real influence, as is the hot climate and abundance of tropical ingredients. Lemon grass grows so well here, galangal too. Chillies are fiery and plentiful. Searingly hot red curry paste is made by Thai women in their kitchens and sold at the Rapid Creek Markets.
In this warm (really I mean oppressive) weather, do you really want to be eating a hot soup? There is something about the chili, the flavour and the subsequent sweating that make me say YES PLEASE! PASS THE LAKSA! It is equally as delicious and lip-smacking in the cold though. Just throw on a scarf, put on those mittens and slurp down some delicious laksa whatever the temperature.

This recipe is easy, although perhaps a little labour intensive. What makes it easy is the use of a food processor. Simply add all of the paste ingredients to the bowl of your processor, use your sharpest blade and you have made a potentially authentic laksa paste in less than five minutes. This paste is the key to the overall dish. It is also a real confidence booster in tackling cooking where flavours are built up, such as Indian or Thai... more about that later.

Serves 4

2 tbs red curry paste
4 chicken thigh fillets, cubed
3 cups chicken stock
2 packets instant noodles
Handful rice noodles
4 eggs
400 ml tin light coconut milk
Lovely handful snowpeas
8 prawns, peeled (optional)
4 spring onions, white part sliced
1 cup (or so) bean sprouts
Bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Laksa Paste:
1 large onion, roughly chopped
5 c.m. piece ginger, roughly chopped - if you can find some galangal use it too!
2 stems lemon grass, white part roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chillies, chopped
2 tbs oil

Make the laksa paste. Combine the first five ingredients in your food processor, blend until well chopped and relatively smooth. Add oil, until the mixture becomes a paste. It will smell amazing!

Heat a wok over medium heat, add the laksa paste and cook mixture while stirring for two minutes. Add the chicken, stir to coat and cook for a further two minutes. Mix in the chicken stock, slowly bring to the boil and simmer gently for ten minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Cook the two types of noodles according to packet instructions. Divide amongst four bowls that you will serve the laksa in. Place eggs into another saucepan, top with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for three minutes before removing saucepan from heat. Cool the eggs, peel and halve. Divide amongst the noodle-filled bowls.

Back in the wok, add the coconut milk, snowpeas and prawns if using. Heat through. Ladle into the four bowls. Top each bowl with a good amount of spring onions, bean sprouts and coriander. Slurp it down with plenty of napkins handy.

Should serve 4, but less if you and your lovely are really hungry. Adapted from an old recipe from an ancient Men’s Health magazine.
Please enjoy this with a beer. It is the only way...