Better than a takeaway

My husband has berated me for my blogging content this week, as my recipes are neither seasonal nor local.  However, in my defence, it is Friday night, and as a nation we Brits all love a takeaway on a Friday night.  The food and drink I am writing about are perfect Friday night fodder, and far, far better than a bought-in take-away.

Despite loving cooking and eating home-cooked food, we usually have a takeaway on a Friday or Saturday night if we are in.  It will usually be either Indian (mild for the children’s sake), or Chinese in front of Britain’s Got Talent.  For Brent and my palate, take-aways need to be fragrant, spicy and savoury, and this Friday the children are visiting their grandparents, so we can go as spicy as we like.  We used to make this dish a lot when the children were very little, and not sharing our meals.  It is probably too spicy for them (however you can amend the amount of chillies you add), and it is certainly fragrant and savoury.  And best of all, because it is home-made, there are no nasty hidden ingredients.

Nasi Goreng (literally meaning fried rice) is sort of like an Indonesian paella.  Made with long-grain rice (medium glycaemic load or GL) its ingredients have many health benefits.  It is served with a garnish of raw salad high in enzymes to help aid digestion (cucumber, tomatoes, peppers), and we like to add lots of fresh coriander to it too, so that the raw ingredients almost overwhelm the cooked ones, adding to its health benefits.

IMG_0222One key ingredient is turmeric, a fantastic anti-inflammatory spice that adds the distinctive yellow colour to the dish.  Turmeric is a wonder spice, and as well as being anti-inflammatory is cardioprotective, beneficial for skin conditions such as psoriasis, a potent antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic.

The chilli content (both fresh and dried) is rich in vitamins and minerals and has similar properties to the turmeric, helps to reduce cholesterol and increases endorphin production for the feel-good factor.  The other ingredients, lean protein, are key building blocks for the body.

Nasi Goreng can be prepared in many different ways.  We base ours on a recipe in one of my favourite cookery books, given to me by my brother, Culinaria: South-East Asian Specialties, which I highly recommend if you like cooking Asian food.

Before you get started with preparing the nasi goreng, though, you will need a cocktail.  Brent and I spent an evening sampling these, and they are delicious, although more than 1 saketini is brave, and more than 2 foolhardy.  Asian-themed, they go well with the nasi goreng despite being from a different parts of Asia.

Cucumber and Basil Saketinis

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 2 parts Sake (we used Sawanotsuru)
  • 1 part Vodka (we used Grey Goose)
  • Splash of Sugar Cane Syrup (we used Saint-James)
  1. Juice the cucumber (I used my Matstone Juicer) with a handful of basil leaves to infuse the cucumber juice
  2. Chill the martini glasses
  3. Combine the sake, vodka and sugar cane in cocktail shaker
  4. Add cucumber and basil juice
  5. Shake over ice
  6. Strain and serve, with a squeeze of lime, and garnish with a basil leaf

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Nasi Goreng (serves 2 greedy adults with leftovers)
  • 200g/7oz long grain rice (we used Basmati)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1-3 fresh red chillies, deseeded
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, boned and skinned and cut into pieces
  • 250g peeled, cooked prawns
  • 1/2 tsp chilli pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • seasoning to taste

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To garnish:

  • a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • sliced red or yellow peppers
  • sliced cucumber
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

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  1. Precook the rice and leave to cool.
  2. Lightly beat the seasoned eggs and make omelette.  Leave to cool, roll up and slice into narrow strips.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, and add onions, garlic, chillies and shrimp paste until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken and prawns and cook gently for 2 mins or so
  5. Stir in chilli powder and turmeric
  6. Add soya sauce, tomato puree and seasoning
  7. Add cooked rice and stir-fry till hot
  8. Serve immediately, with omelette strips on top and garnish on the side.
  9. If you like it as hot as we do, add some Sriracha, Lotus Chilli Oil or Chilli Garlic Sauce

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There were no leftovers this evening, and it was absolutely delicious.  I think the children would love it too if I reduced the chilli content and went easy on the coriander.

Rhubab Rhubarb

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I always think the arrival of British forced rhubarb signifies that Spring is not far off.  It’s cheering colour is such a contrast to other seasonal fare and looks so pretty that I can’t resist it.  We have consequently been eating a lot of it in the Harris household over the last week or two.

Rhubarb has been known in the UK for 500 years or more.  Its root originally came from Siberia, and it was imported for medicinal purposes (it has astringent, laxative, purgative and anti-parasitic properties, as well as aiding bile flow).  Mrs Beeton mentions it as relatively little-known plant, and the first recipes using it date from the late 18th century.

Here in the UK, the best forced rhubarb is grown in Yorkshire.  Forced rhubarb, or early-season rhubarb, is grown under cover, at a constant (high) temperature.  Natural light spoils the appearance of its leaves, so it is harvested by hand by candlelight.

Early-season rhubarb is acidic in its raw state, and requires cooking and the addition of sugar to make it palatable.  Its leaves are toxic due to the high oxalic acid content, so discard before preparing your rhubarb.  It is rich in potassium, as well as calcium and vitamin C.

Rhubarb is generally used as a fruit, although it is by definition a vegetable related to sorrel and buckwheat family.  It is often used for puddings and sweet foods, and makes a popular crumble filling.  It also makes a fantastic syrup to use for martinis.

Rhubarb Martini

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To make the syrup, we used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe in The River Cottage Year, doubling up on the quantities, as it can last for several weeks in a sealed jar in the fridge.

    • 1 kilo British rhubarb
    • juice of 4 blood oranges
    • 8 tablespoons sugar
  1. Rinse and chop rhubarb roughly
  2. Add to pan with juice of 4 blood oranges, as well as 4 tablespoons of sugar
  3. Simmer rhubarb for ten minutes or so until tender
  4. Strain syrup into jar
  5. Leave to cool and refrigerate

IMG_1417For the martini, use 1 part rhubarb to 4 parts vodka.  We used Chase Vodka, which is British.  Serve with 2 inch stick of raw rhubarb to garnish.  Watch out though, these are lethal!

We kept the rhubarb and blood orange pulp post-straining, and this compote can be used to tart up a breakfast porridge, or served as an accompaniment to oily fish (we like it with grilled mackerel).

Rhubarb CrumbleIMG_1409

Preheat oven to 180ºC

Crumble Filling

  • 1 kilo British rhubarb
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Inch of ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 6 cloves
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp of water

Crumble ToppingIMG_1367

  • 225g ground almond
  • 225g coconut sugar
  • 112g porridge oats
  • 110g butter (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. For filling, mix together sugar, zest, juice, ginger, cloves and add to 2 tbsp water
  2. Rinse and chop rhubarb into 2 cm pieces
  3. Pour sugar and juice mixture over rhubarb, and add to oven-proof dish
  4. To make topping, mix together ground almonds, baking powder and porridge oats
  5. Rub butter into mixture
  6. When combined, add sugar and combine again with hands
  7. Top crumble filling with topping
  8. Cook for 45 minutes at 180º C, until bubbling and golden
  9. Serve piping hot, with custard or cream

Blood Orange and Rhubarb Tart

Preheat oven to 180º C.

Pastry:

Filling:

  • 600ml rhubarb and blood orange syrup (see above)
  • juice of 1 blood orange
  • zest of 2 blood oranges
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • 150ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar

Pastry Case:

  1. Roll out pastry to fill 20cm tart tin; trim edges with sufficient overhang to allow for shrinkage
  2. line pastry with baking parchment,  fill with baking beads and chill for about 20 minutes
  3. blind bake for about 15 minutes until golden
  4. remove parchment paper and beans and return to oven for 5 minutes
  5. trim pastry case again flush with tin (ie remove overhang) and leave to cool
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 100ºC

Filling:

  1. Reduce rhubarb and blood orange syrup to about 170ml, and cool.  This will intensify the flavour and thicken the mixture.
  2. Beat orange juice and zest with sugar and egg yolks.
  3. Add double cream
  4. Add cooled syrup

Tart:

  1. Put pie case on oven shelf, add filling carefully up to rim of pie case and slide shelf back with care
  2. Bake at 100º C for about 30 minutes, until filling is set but still soft
  3. Turn off oven and leave tart to cool until set firmly
  4. Cool, then chill
  5. Sift half of icing sugar on top of the tart, caramelise with blow torch, allow to cool, then add rest of icing sugar, and caramelise with blow torch again
  6. Leave to cool and refrigerate until ready to serve
  7. Serve with creme fraiche or clotted cream

IMG_1434This tart was amazing.  The blowtorch creates a Crème brûlée texture to the top of the tart that works really well with the rhubarb and the blood orange.  If anything, the tart filling was perhaps a little too wobbly – it may need the addition of one more egg yolk, but in all honesty, I liked the texture and for me felt it worked well with the brûléed top.  And it went fantastically with a glass of Sauternes.  IMG_1437