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What’s your beef?

Well it looks like today my beef is most definitely Cambodian. I’ve spent a lot of my cooking time lately with the cuisine of France and Italy, and tasty as their dishes have been, it’s time for a bit of a change so off we go to the complex flavours of the Far East. My ego absolutely needed a break from delicious yet snooty French food, I found myself during a team breakfast in Wetherspoons complaining that the hollandaise sauce on my Eggs Benedict had split. I mean, hello, I was in Wetherspoons and breakfast had cost me £3, what exactly was I expecting? I was rightly called a snob, and vowed to be less judgemental about the quality of a super cheap breakfast (Although the egg yolks could have been a bit runnier. Oh that’s right, less judgemental, sorry). So you see, I needed to get away from Europe and get to grips with the region of the world famed for amazing street food and delicious homely curries, not just for my tummy’s sake but for my oversized foodie head.
While I’m fairly certain I say this about every cultures food, I genuinely, really, utterly could eat the food of the Far East every day for the rest of my life. Admittedly, I’ve barely even scratched the surface of this rich foodie culture and have stuck to relatively safe dishes, but I’ve not come across a meal I’ve disliked yet. Thai green curry, sticky chicken and mango salad, massamann curry, chicken satay, Vietnamese curries, spring rolls, beef pho soup…. It’s all good. Armed with Rick Stein’s book Far Eastern Odyssey though, I intend to be a bit more adventurous and branch out from my favourites, and with countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Bali, there really is no excuse not to try something different. You’ve got to try after all. So today I chose Cambodian marinated beef with a lime and black pepper dipping sauce, or in the local tongue, ‘Loc Lac’ which is snappier and just rolls right off the tongue. Sounds more mysterious too. Basically, this is cooked beef strips marinated in a Cambodian sauce, then wrapped in lettuce leaves with shallots and chopped peanuts. If you make this or something similar, don’t buy those sorry looking grey strips of pre-cut beef as they end up being really chewy and stringy which totally takes away from the dish. Plus they taste very meh. Get a small steak instead and trim and cut yourself. Will taste a million times better and you can clearly see the standard of meat you’re going to be eating. Don’t settle if you don’t have to. I would never want to tell anyone how to live and I’m not interested in lecturing anyone on what they put in their shopping trolley, but please buy the best meat you can afford, and if money is tight, try and have a few meat free days a week so you can afford better meat. I only say this for the sake of your tastebuds, but please feel free to ignore me. Chuck this in a marinade that consists of garlic, ginger, chilli and some truly awful smelling Asian condiments (fish sauce assaults your nostrils with its fermented anchovy pungency, but taste wise it adds huge amounts of flavour. Don’t judge it on the smell alone as it gives dishes a deep, salty flavour that can make the dish) alongside the surprising addition of ketchup. Cook in a wok over a high heat and serve with the accompaniments. This meal was absolutely delicious. The beef in its sticky marinade was tasty enough, but the added crunch from the lettuce and peanuts and sharpness from the raw shallots just made the dish. Sharp, sour, sweet, with a sticky coating, the flavours are big and spicy and whisked me away to the far shores of Cambodia. I’ve never been mind, but one can dream! It’s certainly cheaper than a flight to Asia anyway. Meals like this make me feel very sorry for those picky people who daren’t venture out of their comfort zone. Far Eastern food can be stunning and everyone should give it a go. Your tastebuds will be thankful, trust me.

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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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Monochrome Cupcakes, Thai Noodles

Now that The Boyfriend has been gone for 6 weeks, it appears I’ve gotten into a little routine, which I shall call ‘The Fat Hermit Routine’. Now before you start feeling sorry for me and going ‘awwwww’, I’d like to state that I only go into ‘Fat Hermit’ mode on a Sunday, the rest of my week is completely freestyled (apart from Zumba Tuesdays and Booiaka Fridays anyway. OK, so maybe I AM in a but of a routine…) and I save my sad sap days for Sundays. Fat Hermit Sundays basically involve me not leaving the flat and baking something extremely fattening, but equally delicious. Try and get between me and these Sundays with my oven and mixing bowls and you will meet resistance. Today though, I think I totally deserve my Sunday hermitising, if you will, after attending a gorgeous wedding of a childhood friend which was lovely but after 9 hours in heels me and my feet needed a rest! Rest to me apparently means whipping up a batch of cupcakes. These came from the same book I used for the rhubarb cupcakes, The Primrose Bakery book, and again the cupcakes were immensely successful. They were cookies and cream cupcakes, which are basically chocolate cupcakes covered in vanilla buttercream (the recipe asks for marshmallow icing but this looked like too much work, so I stuck with my old favourite vanilla) with crushed Oreo cookies crumbled on top. They are amazing. The cake itself is ridiculously light and fluffy with a deep chocolate taste, as unlike many cake recipes, this contains real chocolate instead of just cocoa powder. Combine this cake heaven with buttercream nirvana and you’ve reached cupcake bliss. Finished off with crunchy Oreos, yum. Luckily for me, they are very sweet so one is most definitely enough. Although I did eat an absolute truckload of leftover cake mix and icing, as you’ve probably worked out by now restraint and self discipline isn’t my strong point. I’m also immensely pleased with how pretty they look in their simple monochrome presentation, and the little specks of cookie dust and rubble strewn atop the icing. Gorgeous. I’ve turned into a bit of a cupcake fiend lately, the sugar highs seem to be helping with missing The Boyfriend. Some Amazon reviews on this book moan about the high sugar content of the cakes. Christ, if you don’t want to eat lots of sugar then don’t eat cupcakes, idiots. Common sense! I just thank God for my gym membership and eat cupcakes regardless of sugar content.

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Moving on from the cupcakes, on Friday after a Booiaka dance lesson (ladies, I highly recommend, you just dance like Beyonce to 90s RnB for an hour. I say like Beyonce, but the mirrors in the studio have shattered any illusions about my dancing ability. I just don’t look in them anymore) I made Pad Thai noodles from Rick Steins book ‘Far Eastern Odyssey’. Now I’m not a huge fan of Stein, but you can’t argue with how good the food from countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam is. All of the recipes in this book look very very edible, but while it’s commendable that Rick encourages authentic cooking, recipes that are either too long winded or include impossible to find ingredients I’m just not going to cook. For a bowl of noodles, I’m not going to make an Asian stock or tamarind water thank you very much. And I don’t live in a huge city with food markets on every corner, so hunting down rare ingredients just isn’t possible unless I spent a fortune online. However, I decided to overlook this Friday night to finally use the book after 2 years of it gathering dust and made the simplest recipe from it. I’ve avoided Pad Thai in the past as it contains peanuts which I hate, but I realise now that once combined with all the other ingredients they are just a background taste. The noodles were very nice, had a good kick from the sweet chilli sauce and it was super quick to prepare. Prawns are a great option here as they take barely any time to cook at all, but I’m sure you could just as easily add strips of chicken or beef if that’s what your heart desired. I’ve decided that even though I’ve never been before, my heart (or at the very least my palette) belongs to Thailand, I’ve not yet met a Thai dish I didn’t like. Better start saving for a plane ticket! Or at the very least book a table at the delicious Thai restaurant in town once The Boyfriend returns next month.

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