Prawn, crab and tofu pad thai

Pad thai is a classic street food dish that can be tweaked and adapted to please even the most fussy of eaters. As long as it is packed with delicious noodles and flavours then the world is your oyster- or crab and prawn in this instance. I have also added tofu in for extra texture- if you don’t routinely use it then do give it a go! You may well be surprised. I have chosen a firm tofu here which I think is the best way to introduce yourself to the bean curd world. The key to a perfect pad thai is in the preparation. Once the you start, it happens relatively quickly so you really do need to prep everything beforehand.

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Ingredients- serves 2 hungry people
2 large eggs
4 spring onions cut on the diagonal
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 30ml boiling water
2 tbsp palm sugar
125g firm tofu cut into 2cm cubes
30g grated ginger
2 red chillies finely chopped
1 banana shallot finely sliced
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
150g raw king prawns deveined and roughly chopped
100g rice noodles
100g white crabmeat
75g beansprouts
10 chives cut into 3 cm lengths
50g peanuts roughly chopped
Small handful of Thai basil and coriander finely chopped

1. Beat the eggs lightly and add a tablespoon of the fish sauce before setting aside ready for later. Read the instructions for your rice noodles at this stage as some need soaking for longer than others. Prepare according to instructions all ready for later.

2. Take the tamarind water and add the palm sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Stir well to ensure the sugar dissolves; if you find it has not fully dissolved you can add a splash of boiling water to help things along.

3. Place a large wok over a medium/ high heat and add 2 tsp of vegetable or groundnut oil. Add the tofu cubes, in a couple of batches if needed so as to not overcrowd the pan, and fry off until golden all over. Set aside to blot of kitchen paper.

4. Next you need to cook the garlic, chillies, ginger, shallots and spring onion until softening. You could also add a piece of finely sliced lemongrass at this stage of you like.

5. Pop in the prawns and the tamarind water to the wok and cook for a few seconds to make sure the prawns are coated. Add the noodles back into the wok and cook for a minute or so, again ensuring the strands are coated in the tamarind. Next into the wok goes the crab, bean sprouts, chive, basil, coriander and tofu. Toss gently to heat through. At this stage I then pushed the noodle mixture to one side in the wok and added the beaten eggs. Beat them in the wok until it begins to scramble and then you can mix it all the way through the rest of the noodles so the egg is well dispersed. Heat until the noodles are warm, the tofu is reheated and the prawns are a delicate blush pink.

Divide between 2 bowls and serve with a garnish of chopped peanut and you can add some roasted chilli flakes for an extra bit of spice or some extra chives if you like.

Prawn, crab and tofu pad thai- a satisfyingly savoury dish that will leave you wanting more!

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Warming chickpea and lamb kofta tagine

Treat yourself to this chickpea and lamb kofta tagine this week for a Middle Eastern flavour fix. This recipe is simple but packed with spices and vegetables which the whole family will enjoy. When you think of tagines you tend to think of fluffy cous cous which is served with it but with the chickpeas all you need is a fork! Flatbread is also delicious with it and a perfect scoop for the sauce.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lamb kofta
400g lamb mince- I used 20% fat
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

For the sauce
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
1 red pepper- finely sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp harissa
1 tin of chickpeas- drained and rinsed
2 tins of chopped tomatoes- blended with a hand blender
1 bag of baby spinach
1 block of feta- approx. 200g
Fresh coriander to serve

1. Start off by simply combining all the ingredients for the kofta, making sure you season it well. I don’t use egg or breadcrumbs because if you are using a good quality mince it will hold together in koftas after working it in the bowl. Get your hands into the mixture and start working the mince until it comes together and firms up. Shape into small sausage shape koftas. Take a frying pan and heat a little vegetable oil over a medium heat; fry off the kofta in small batches until they are golden on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside; repeat until all have been fried.

2. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan for later. Now for the sauce! Take a large frying pan and heat a little vegetable oil. Cook the red onion, garlic and red pepper over a low to medium heat until softened and getting a little colour. I like to add salt to the onion at this stage to draw out some the moisture from the onion. Add in the cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne and cook for a further minute before stirring in the harissa. I then add the rinsed chickpeas into the pan and toss in the spices so they get a lovely coating.

3. Add the tinned tomatoes in the pan and bring to a simmer. I blended the tomatoes using a hand blender for a smoother finish but you can keep them chunkier if you prefer. Shred the spinach roughly and add into the pan in a couple of batches to wilt it down. Next, pop the kofta in the pan and make sure they are covered with some tomato so they don’t catch in the oven. Top with crumbled feta and cook in the oven still in the frying pan for around 30 minutes until the kofta are cooked through and the feta is getting some colour. Finish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped coriander and away you go!

Chickpea and lamb kofta tagine- a warming and hearty meal perfect for a midweek dinner! One more photo? Go on then!

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Beef Khao Soi topped with crispy noodles

Beef khao soi brings a taste of Thailand to the comfort of your own home. It is a delicately spiced and fragrant curry noodle soup that is perfect for a chilly evening. I have added some mixed vegetables to this recipe to make it even heartier. It can be served with a range of meats and prawns but I have kept this recipe as simple as possible by using minute steak. This cut of beef is perfect as it cooks quickly whilst retaining its tenderness so give it a try!

I have included my recipe for red curry paste which forms the base of the recipe but if you’re short on time you can use a ready made paste. The paste also keeps well in the fridge as long as it’s kept in a well sealed pot so you can make a bigger batch at a time.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Red curry paste

6 whole dried red chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp galangal- chopped finely
1 tbsp lemonsgrass- chopped finely
1 tsp peppercorns
5 garlic cloves- finely grated
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- finely grated
2 shallots- finely chopped
1 lime- zest finely grated
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt

For the rest of the khao soi
400ml coconut milk
500ml hot vegetable stock
2 minute steaks- cut into thin strips
3 spring onions- shredded
2 generous handfuls of mixed vegetables- such as a stir fry variety pack
3 nests of medium egg noodles- reserve one for the topping

1. Start off by making the curry paste by toasting the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan over a medium heat. As the spices start to release their fragrance, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly before grinding in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine to form a thick paste and you are good to go!

2. Heat a small amount of vegetable or groundnut oil in a wok and fry off the curry paste for a few minutes until it starts to release its flavours. Add the coconut milk and stock and stir well to combine. Increase the heat and bring to the boil before lowering to a simmer. I simmered it for around half an hour so it begins to reduce down and the flavours develop.

3. As the coconut milk is simmering, cook the noodle nests according to pack instructions. Set 2 nests worth of noodles aside for later and use one to make the crispy noodle topping. To do this, heat a good amount of oil in a deep pan over a medium/ high heat (remember to keep a careful eye on this!). Take some of the noodles at a time, trying not to overcrowd the pan, and fry until they crisp up and go a little golden. I used a slotted spoon to turn them over during cooking to get an even colour. Remove from the pan and blot onto kitchen towel.

4. When you are nearly ready to serve, add the mixed vegetables and spring onions into the wok to simmer for a couple of minutes before removing the wok from the heat and adding in the beef strips. I found that the delicate strips of beef cooked well in the residual heat but you could keep it on the hob on a very low heat if you prefer.

5. Divide the two noodle nests between two deep bowls. I used a slotted spoon to add on the beef and vegetable mix before using a ladle to spoon over the broth. Top with the crispy noodles and watch your fellow diners’ faces as you present this beautiful curry soup to them!

Beef khao soi with cispy noodles- fragrant, delicate and oh so moreish!

Herb and chilli baked feta

Herb and chilli baked feta has to be one of the speediest starters around! We all know and love baked cheeses like camembert but this gives a Greek twist. Feta is the perfect baking cheese as it heats well and keeps its shape whilst retaining it beautiful saltiness so get reading and get cooking. You may also like to try using flavoured oils for this too such as garlic or lemon and thyme.

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Ingredients
1 block of feta approx. 250g
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Place the feta block in a small ovenproof baking dish or alternatively place on a piece of foil with the sides lifted to contain the oil. Combine the oil, chilli and herb and pour over the feta. Bake for around 15minutes until the feta is warmed through. Spread on fresh bread and enjoy!

Herb and chilli baked feta- so easy you can cook this in your sleep!

Garithes youvetsi- Greek baked prawns with tomato and feta

Garithes youvetsi is a typical Greek dish which is quick, easy and is perfect for entertaining or for a quiet night in. I can hear you thinking that the salty feta surely doesn’t go with delicate, sweet prawns but think again! With the careful balance of prawn to feta you can’t go wrong! I have used raw peeled king prawns for ease and to avoid having to cover myself in tomato sauce when trying to remove the shell but it’s up to you. Find a good quality feta that is both sharp and salty; avoid so called salad cheese at all costs! Feel free to pop in a couple of extra ingredients such as some baby spinach leaves or roasted red pepper for an added twist.

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Ingredients- serves 2
350g raw king prawns- deveined
Olive oil
1 onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
6 fresh vine tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes
Fresh oregano and parsley
100ml dry white wine
100g feta

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160fan ready to receive the prawns later on. Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a saucepan and warm over a low heat. Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes until they soften and release their flavour. Stir through the cumin and cook for a further minute.

2. Next up goes the tomatoes. If you’re using fresh tomatoes then dice them; you can remove the seeds and skin if you like. Add the wine and away it goes! Most recipes that call for wine put it in the base of the recipe but many Greek dishes add it into the sauce directly; of course, if you’re feeling daring then you can add a splash of ouzo! Turn the heat up to medium and simmer until most of the liquid has reduced. Add in the oregano and half of the parsley and season to taste. If you wanted to add in a little spinach or red pepper then this would be the time to add it in.

3. Take two ovenproof baking dishes to each person has their own to dig into. Place the prawns at the bottom of the dishes before dividing the tomato sauce between the dishes and placing over the prawns. Crumble the feta over the top and bake for around 10-13 minutes until the prawns are cooked through. Sprinkle the remaining parsley to serve and you may also like to serve with a side salad or some hunks of bread.

Garithes youvetsi- a taste of Greece in the comfort of your own home!

 

Roasted garlic, shallot, potato and thyme soup

Autumn is here and that means that soup season has started too! This roasted garlic, shallot, potato and thyme soup makes the best of fresh ingredients to bring out the flavours from each. When garlic and shallots are roasted they lose their pungency and develop a wonderful sweetness which keeps you wanting more. This recipe feeds four happily but it can easily be doubled to make a larger batch. The soup is best stored in a sealed container in the fridge and you will find that the flavours get better and better the day after you make it so try not to scoff it all in one go! It calls for leftover Parmesan (or similar) rind which sits in the soup whilst it’s simmering away and gives an extra umami hit. I always freeze leftover rinds for such occasions!

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Ingredients- serves 4
2 whole bulbs of garlic
6 shallots
Olive oil
Knob of butter
450g peeled potatoes- I used Maris Piper
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs
900ml vegetable stock
Parmesan rind (optional but delicious so advised!)
40ml milk or double cream

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan ready for the garlic and shallot. Cut the tops of the bulbs and shallots to expose the flesh and then place cut side up on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with a good helping of olive oil and roast for around half an hour until tender. Remove from the oven, unwrap the foil parcels and set aside to cool. When it is cool enough to handle squeeze out the flesh. Roughly chop the garlic and shallot ready for later and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, add a knob of butter to a large saucepan which will be big enough to fit the stock later on and heat over a medium heat. Take your peeled potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Sautee the potato chunks along with as much thyme sprigs, sea salt and pepper as you fancy for 15 minutes until they start to soften slightly. I used smoked sea salt which added an extra layer of flavour but normal sea salt will be work too. Add in the garlic and shallot and stir well to combine before cooking for a further few minutes.

3. Make up the stock and then add to the potatoes along with the parmesan rind (if using). Bring to the boil and then drop down to a simmer; cover and cook until the potatoes are softened. Add in the milk and simmer for a few more minutes until it thickens slightly. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve in deep soup bowls with some freshly grated parmesan, thyme leaves or crisped pancetta on top if you like and watch everyone tuck in!

Roasted garlic, shallot, potato and thyme soup- the only soup to make your house smell this good!

Sticky Szechuan pepper prawns

Now this is a must cook dish! Szechuan pepper prawns are sweet, sticky and spicy which in my mind is the perfect combination for these juicy beauties. Szechuan pepper can be bought in Chinese supermarkets or online from http://www.souschef.co.uk (I challenge you to have a look on this site and only buy what you were originally looking for!). The pepper gives a tingle and I toast my peppercorns before using to bring out the flavour. I also used kicap manis in this recipe which is an Indonesian soy sauce that adds a savoury hit which balances the sweetness of the honey. What are you waiting for? Read on!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw peeled king prawns
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp kicap manis
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 garlic clove- crushed

1. Start off by toasting the peppercorns- simply take a small pan and heat the peppercorns over a medium/ high heat for a couple of minutes. Don’t give them too long otherwise they will burn and turn bitter so keep an eye on them. When they’re ready, grab a pestle and mortar and roughly grind them. You’re after a coarse grind rather than dust!

2. For the marinade mix the honey, kicap manis, pepper and garlic and pop the prawns in. Cover and leave in the fridge for aroud 30 minutes. When you are ready to cook, take a small frying pan and add the excess marinade. Cook for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until it starts to thicken and turn lovely and glossy. Add in the prawns and toss to coat in the sticky sauce. The prawns should need around 3-4 minutes depending on their size. And that’s all there is to it! I served the prawns with a simple vegetable and noodle stir fry.

Sweet, sticky and spicy Szechuan pepper prawns- a tingly taste of heaven! I mean, just look at them…

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