Sunday 27 July 2014

meatballs with kluski and kapusta

It's now a year since I left the UK to come and work in Bangkok. Sometimes in life you reach a point where you just know a big change or kick up the rear end is needed. You're stuck in a routine or lifestyle that you know isn't what you want for your life and it's time to do something about it. For me that involved marrying my long-term partner then moving half-way across the world to build a new life together with our cat. I have no regrets about the move at all and I've met many wonderful people along the way and had some invigorating, life-affirming experiences - everything that I was looking for. However, I will always miss my friends and family 'back home' and when I'm feeling particularly homesick I find Polish food makes me feel right again.

This recipe is not some sort of 'family secret' passed down from my Babcia. Instead I've put together some of my favourite Polish flavours using the ingredients I can find here in Bangkok to create an 'inspired by' dish. You don't have to use homemade kluski, gnocchi would work well here or any other kind of pasta for the matter but when it's comfort food I'm after it has to be kluski.

Ingredients Serves 2-3 as a main course
1 quantity of kluski dough, pre-cooked in any shape you choose. 
1 can (411g) sauerkraut (rinse in water if you want a less sour taste)
180g brown mushrooms, finely sliced (small tray)
handful fresh dill, chopped
2 medium onions (about 1 1/2 cups), peeled and finely diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot - your choice)
200ml water
180g minced pork, beef or a mixture
2 tbsp browned onions (see below)
1/2 tsp ground allspice

NOTES: This dish is great with boiled kluski but if you want a different texture you can fry the kluski after they've been boiled. 
  1. Start by sauteing the onion in the oil and butter over a medium low heat until it is all golden brown with a natural sweetness. This will take about 10-20 minutes or so.
  2. Once the onions are browned, put about 2 tbsps in a bowl ready to mixed with the meatball mixture.
  3. Return the pan to a medium heat (still using the same oil, butter mixture and you cooked the meat and onions in) and saute the mushrooms with the onions until they have softened a little.
  4. Stir through the sauerkraut and add the water, smoked paprika and some ground black pepper then cook over a low to medium heat for 20 minutes or so. Keep an eye on the moisture level and add extra water as you desire.
  5. While the kapusta is bubbling away it's time to make the meatballs. Combine all the meatball ingredients together until evenly mixed. Next, heat up a frying pan with a little oil and form small meatballs using around a teaspoon of mixture each time then fry until browned on all sides and cooked through. 
  6. Once the kapusta is at your desired consistency add in the pre-cooked kluski and meatballs. Taste and adjust seasoning as you wish. Then cook everything together for a further 5 minutes or so.
  7. Just before serving stir through the chopped fresh dill and serve with a dollop of soured cream if you wish. 

Saturday 3 May 2014

spring onion and chilli pancakes

Pancakes for breakfast are always welcome and these savoury spring onion and chilli pancakes are no exception. You can put them together very easily in no time at all but they feel like a real treat. Enjoy them as they are or do as I did and enjoy with a soft poached egg and some crispy bacon.

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper
1 large egg
2/3 cups milk
3/4 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
4 or 5 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped white and green parts
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
vegetable oil for cooking
  1. Put all of the ingredients apart from the spring onions into a blender and blitz for a minute or so or until everything is thoroughly combined. You can mix everything together by hand but this way is so much easier.
  2. Add the spring onions and stir through or very briefly pulse the mixture to bring everything together
  3. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a tablespoon or so of oil then pour in 1/4 or 1/3 cup measures of the mixture. Turn the pancakes over once bubbles have formed on the top then cook for another minute.
  4. Serve with some crispy bacon and chilli sauce or add a poached egg for extra decadence.

Sunday 16 March 2014

spicy peanut butter noodles with broccoli and pickled mustard

This is a 'store cupboard special' recipe. Chances are you'll have all, if not most of these ingredients in your kitchen already and if not you can improvise. These noodles are quick and easy too. (I have been known to knock up a bowl after a night out on more than one occasion!) Once you understand the basic idea of this simple dish you can alter the flavours based on your own tastes or what you have in. The foundation of the sauce is peanut butter made into a sauce with hot water. You could even make this super healthy by blending roasted, unsalted peanuts with water and various seasonings.

Ingredients (2 greedy people)
200g egg noodles
1 head of broccoli or other veg of your choice, cut into bite sized pieces, stem and all
The sauce
3 heaped tbsp (crunchy) peanut butter
3 tbsp sriracha chilli sauce/chilli ketchup or similar. (You can add more or less of this to taste)
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp soy sauce
250ml (just) boiled water

To serve any selection from:
Finely sliced onion/spring onion
lime wedges
pickled mustard
radish slices
fresh coriander, mint and/or chives

  1. In a pan of boiling water cook the broccoli for 5 minutes then scoop out with a slotted spoon and set to one side.
  2. In the same pan cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
  3. Meanwhile, get on with preparing the sauce. Mix together all the ingredients apart from the water. Taste and adjust the chilli seasoning to your taste. Next add the water little by little until you achieve the consistency of pouring cream. 
  4. Once the noodles are cooked, drain then place in a large mixing bowl, then stir through the broccoli and peanut butter sauce. Serve with the lime wedges, onion and pickled mustard or whatever you've got. 

Saturday 1 March 2014

banana and coconut pancakes

There's nothing much I can say about this recipe. They're simple, delicious and a great weekend breakfast treat. If you've got a blender or food processor you can make these pancakes even faster by throwing everything in together and blitzing until it is well combined.

Ingredients (makes 8-12 pancakes)
1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
2 bananas, mashed
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, coconut, sugar and salt. In another combine everything else (bananas, egg, milk and oil). 
  2. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet and whisk everything until it is thoroughly combined.
  3. Heat up a skillet or non-stick frying pan over a medium heat then pour the mixture into the pan using 1/4 or 1/3 cup measures. Once bubbles form on the pancake flip them over and continue to cook until they puff up and are golden brown on both sides. 
  4. Serve with syrup, butter, yogurt, fruit or whatever you fancy. 

Sunday 23 February 2014

amok trey (cambodian steamed fish curry)

Amok is widely seen as the national dish of Cambodia. It is a fragrant spiced curry that is steamed in banana leaves or coconut shells. You can get fish (trey), prawn, chicken and vegetarian versions but the fish is the most traditional. The flavour is similar to a mild Thai red-curry and there is a similar dish in Thailand called Hor Mok

To make your own amok at home is actually surprisingly easy. If you really don't have the time to make your own paste from scratch by all means use a ready bought red curry paste but get the best one you can find. Thank you to Mimi Aye and Luke Nguyen for their inspiration putting together this version of Amok trey.
Amok paste ingredients
Ingredients (serves 2-4 depending on serving bowl size)
Amok Paste:
3 long dried chillies, cut finely and soaked for around 30 minutes in tepid water to soften
6 large cloves garlic
2 shallots finely diced
4cm piece/s fresh turmeric root or 1 tsp ground turmeric
4 sticks of lemongrass, trimmed and sliced as finely as possible
thumb sized piece of galangal, peeled and finely diced
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely diced
6 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
1 tbsp Thai shrimp paste

Everything else:
400ml (1 can) coconut milk
2 eggs
handful of large spinach leaves or similar
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
approx 400g firm fish fillets, cut into bite sized pieces (or the equivalent of chicken, prawns, squid etc.)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

finished paste
  1. Start of by making the paste. You can either do this in a food processor or you can use a pestle and mortar. Either way, make sure everything is cut as finely as possible before you start and it will make the whole process a lot quicker and easier. If you're using the pestle and mortar start off with the 'harder' ingredients then add everything else little by little. I started with the lemongrass then galangal, ginger, turmeric root, soaked chillies, lime leaves, garlic, shallot then finally the shrimp paste. 
  2. Heat the oil in a pan then cook the amok paste until fragrant (1 minute or so) then add the coconut milk and simmer gently for around 5 minutes. Season with the fish sauce and pam sugar then remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.
  3. Now prepare your steamer. I used a metal trivet in the bottom of a large saucepan. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring the water up to a boil. If you have the time, patience and materials now would be a good time to make your banana leaf cups too. Check out Rachel Cooks Thai for a good tutorial. I was hungry and couldn't find any banana leaves when I went shopping so instead used my oversized tea cups. They worked perfectly.
  4. Once your coconut mixture has cooled enough stir through the beaten eggs and add the fish chunks. Line your bowls/tea cups/banana leaf bowls with the spinach leaves then spoon in the fish pieces. Pour over most of the liquid but leave a little to one side for later.
  5. Now place your filled bowls in the steamer, cover and steam on a high heat for 15 minutes. Add the remaining liquid to the bowls then lower the heat to medium and cook for a further 30 minutes. During the cooking process the amok will souffle up a little so don't be alarmed.
  6. Once the time is up, remove the bowls from the steamer. Drizzle over a little coconut milk and garnish with some sliced kaffir lime leaves and finely sliced chillies too if you like. Serve with steamed rice.

amok paste mixed with coconut milk
bowls lined with spinach leaves
Ready for the first steaming

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