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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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Surf ‘n’ turf Saturday

Does this dinner presented below (ignore the presentation and focus on the food!) look like your idea of Saturday dinner heaven? :

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If not, then please stop reading, turn around and never darken my door again. We can never be friends! Anyone who could look upon steak with king prawns and mashed potatoes and say ‘meh’ must be either out of their mind or vegetarian. No offence to vegetarians, I respect the fact that meat isn’t for everyone, whether thats down to taste or ethics, but I could never give up meat and would never want to. Last night I was really craving the sort of food that Americans do best and would remind me of holidays over there, so I scoured the Internet to find the perfect dinner. I’ve got quite a few American cookbooks which are all awesome, but when it comes to surf n turf, there isn’t really a great recipe selection unless you want to go down the lobster route. Now I love lobster, and I know I bang on about making an effort with food even if you’re on your own, but even for me, cooking up steak and lobster just for one seemed a tad excessive. Plus I had king prawns in the freezer. The recipe I used came from All Recipes Australia and NZ website, and was steak with prawns in a garlic sauce with mashed potatoes and asparagus. What can I say, it totally scratched the itch for American ‘holiday’ food as it were. The garlic sauce was quite thick and claggy, but tasted of garlic, basil and parsley which made up for the odd texture and brought everything on the plate together well. Sadly I overcooked the steak, barely any trace of blood or pinkness in it, which sadly is how I always end up cooking steak. I don’t know how I do it, I follow advice given by chefs but just can’t master cooking steak, it’s either so rare it’s still mooing, or grey throughout. The steak still tasted nice but would have been nicer had I been able to master the art of medium rare. One day! I piled absolutely loads of asparagus on the plate to try and make up for the butter and delicious red meat, but as it was Saturday night I managed to fight off the guilt pretty easily.

Sticking with the American theme (well it is Independence Day on Wednesday after all) I had pancakes for a post-gym brunch this morning. But these were totally different pancakes called Apple Puff Pancakes from USA by Sheila Lukins (yes, the one where she eats her way around America… bitch). Instead of cooking them in a frying pan, you pour the batter over some cinnamonny and sugary apple chunks in a small pie dish then pop in a really hot oven for 20 minutes. The result is a light, fluffy, risen pancake that tastes of apple and cinnamon. It was so yummy, I’m a big fan of American breakfast and pastry goods as they usually have loads of cinnamon contained within them which wakes the taste buds up first thing in the morning. The Boyfriend detests cinnamon so while he’s still away I may as well cook as much of it as I can. I would have taken a photo of it but while getting it out of the pie dish it fell apart and it’s appearance did not do its taste any justice. So instead of judging it by it’s looks, my words will have to make do. Maple syrup really makes this dish, it tastes wonderfully sweet next to the tartness of apples and warmth of the cinnamon. Thank you very much America, and Happy Independence Day for the 4th!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food

 

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Hot Chilli Beef Noodle Soup – How To Eat

First things first, the oven is finally fixed! Yes I had a little dance around the kitchen once it was done, I’m not ashamed to admit it! To celebrate this fine occasion (and also that little known occasion Valentines Day), the boyfriend cooked me what can only be described as the best roast dinner I’ve ever had. Big talk, but in the words of Beyonce, “he talk like this coz he can back it up”. I may moan about his lack of grown up taste buds, but he can sure knock up a great roast dinner. We went for pork, crackling was perfect, meat juicy, roast potatoes were heavenly, sausage meat stuffing divine, veg nice and crunchy and gravy delicious. It’s going to be pretty tough to top that one. To make this divine dinner even more appealing, he cooked cheesy mushrooms to start (from Jamie Olivers 30 Minute Meals) and bought some Haagen Dazs ice cream (strawberry cheesecake). Screw dainty sized, overly priced meals out in an atmosphere less restaurant, this is my idea of romance, cooking a meal that satisfies and makes you feel happy.

 

Anyway, onto todays cookbook challenge recipe. How To Eat is Nigella Lawsons first cookbook, and while I worship The Lawson, this book I hardly ever use. It may be down to my love of food photos, as this book has none. Shallow of me, I know, but I like knowing what the end result will look like, and also enjoy perving over the beautiful plates, kitchenware and linens that Nigella is fond of putting in photos. One day I will have a kitchen like Nigellas, filled with pretty pretty kitchenware and chilli fairy lights! So much of How To Eat is full of entertaining style food, which I don’t really do a lot of so for the challenge I had to pick out 3 standard dinners for weekday use so that I could make the most of this book. After yesterdays blow out, today needed a healthier alternative, and this beef soup was tucked away in the low fat chapter. I marinated a steak in some asian ingredients, infused some beef stock with ginger, dried chilli and garlic, cooked the steak then chucked some cooked noodles in the stock with some sugar snap peas, sliced up the steak and served everything together. It was ok, nothing too special but for a mid week low fat meal it did the job. The beef was really tasty and very tender, but the stock just didn’t really have any flavour. Still, it’s good to know its low fat and the amount of sugar snap peas means I feel a lot more virtuous than I did last night!

 

I’ll forgive Nigella for this transgression, I have had very few duds with her recipes so will put this one down to a lacklustre stock. Out of all my cookbooks, hers are my favourites and usually the most used. The food is uncomplicated, tasty and doesn’t apologise for putting flavour and satisfaction before virtuosity. I understand the importance of healthy meals, and eat them regularly, but if you’re going to treat yourself, Nigella’s books are the ones to turn to. In my eyes she eats like a real woman, without the guilt so often accompanied with women when eating say, a chocolate cake. Life is for living, and food is for eating. She also writes beautifully and often comes up with sentences about food that can be applied to so many other areas of life. One day I’ll have to dig out some of her quotes to put on here, as I often find them pretty inspiring. I also highly recommend her website, ( http://www.nigella.com )   which has tons of recipes (both hers and Nigella fans) and regular updates from the lady herself. Always remember, any woman who is happy to be filmed sneaking to the fridge late at night to eat cake is someone you can rely on when it comes to cooking!

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Books, Cooking

 

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