Poke Bowl

Posted: August 1, 2019 in America, bowl food, Fish, Food Porn
Tags: , , , , ,

Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl

IMG_0862Just the other day, a facebook memory popped onto my timeline and catapulted me back to my Summer holiday in Hawaii, July 2018.  A simple bowl of poke (pronounced Poh-Keh) scantily covered in sriracha mayonnaise, resting on sticky sushi rice and decorated with an avocado fan. Before you ask, yes, a lot of my holiday photos tend to be about food.  

Hawaiian food history and culture in a bowl.  A simple bowl of marinated, raw yellow-fin tuna.

Hawaiian poke has become as much of a defining element of Hawaiian culture as the surf board and floral shirt.

Screenshot 2019-07-31 at 23.56.40.png

The history of this simple, national Hawaiian dish dates back to pre-colonial Polynesian times and was created by local fishermen.  Hawaiians fished as and when they were hungry, and the catch of the day made for the perfect meal – indigenous, sustainable and fresh.  They took what they caught that day and preserved leftovers by slicing the fish, tossing with sea salt and “ogo” fresh seaweed to create the first ‘catch of the day’ poke. Poke literally means “to slice or cut” in Hawaiian.  This rudimentary poke has evolved from reef fish to “ahi” yellow-fin tuna and a variety of seasonings to include, “pahole fern” and “kuki nut” ingredients native to the islands.  However, since first contact with Asian and Western cultures, spring onions, chillies, avocados and soy sauce have become common additions to poke.

Fish generally found in poke bowls are tuna, salmon and pacific marlin (a cousin of the swordfish).  Octopus “he’e” is another island favourite.  Substitute seafood for tofu to make it vegetarian.

Poke is everywhere in Hawaii, you can buy it at grocery stores and beach shacks.

Hawaiians usually serve poke as a starter in place of a salad but if you want to make it a more wholesome bowl, serve it over rice like the Japanese rice bowl Donburi. However, for lighter versions serve over leafy greens or a kale salad, or substitute rice for quinoa.  The possibilities are as limiting as your imagination and palate. 

The basic components of the marinade are soy sauce and sesame oil but you can get creative with the dressing.  Sriracha mayo, wasabi mayo, freshly grated ginger juice, chopped chillies in soy, Japanese yuzu and rice vinegar. 

IMPORTANT: If using raw fish AVOID lime juice in the marinade as this will ‘cook’ the fish ceviche-style. Squeeze lime juice over before serving to freshen the dish.

With the Blue-fin tuna open season due to commence on 5th August – why not land yourself some fresh tuna and try making a simple blue-fin tuna poke bowl as a healthy lunch or light dinner?  Or better still, invite friends round for a DIY Poke Bowl Party – super easy and quick to prepare for a large crowd.

To create a poke bowl, you will need to get hold of sashimi-grade tuna/salmon.  Don’t freak out, all this means is that the fresh fish has been frozen to kill off any parasites and then defrosted ready to eat safely.  If you are fortunate enough to get fresh tuna from a local fisherman that gives it to you still warm and pulsing make sure to freeze this overnight before using it the following day.

Gastrorob’s Poke BowlIMG_4102

Ingredients

200g Sashimi-grade tuna
2 Spring onions
1/4 cup Soy sauce
1/3 cup Vegetable oil
2 Tbsp Sesame oil
150g Sushi rice
1/2 Ripe avocado
1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
Fresh ginger
1 Tbsp honey
Fresh Coriander
Limes 

Method:

1st: In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, honey and grate in a thumb size piece of fresh ginger.  Chop the spring onions and add to the bowl.

2nd: Cut sashimi-grade tuna into bite-size chunks and add to the bowl.  Mix this gently and leave in the fridge for anything from 15mins to 1hour.

3rd: Use any rice you wish – I prefer using sushi rice which is slightly sweet and sticky once boiled and feels authentic but feel free to use any rice you have in your cupboard.

4th: Make the Sriracha mayonnaise by combining the sriracha sauce and mayonnaise and mixing well.  You may wish to slacken the mixture with some lime juice/water so that it’s easier to squeeze over the tuna.

5th: Plate up.  Serve the warm rice in a bowl and add the marinated tuna to the dish.  Place sliced/cubed avocado on the side and top with the green parts of spring onions and coriander.  If you have sesame seeds (white or black) these add great crunch to the dish. Chopsticks of fork – your choice.

Optional toppings are:

Screenshot 2019-08-01 at 00.06.10.pngAvocado: adding creaminess to the dish

Cucumber: for crunch

Edamame beans (steamed): for freshness and crunch

Mango: for sweetness and fruity punch

Radish: for crunch and pepperiness

Wasabi paste, pickled ginger, fresh ginger juice, chillies: for a spicy hit

Shredded nori seaweed: for greater umami and depth of flavour

Macadamia nuts (chopped): for crunch

If you love sushi as I do but can’t be bothered with the faff of rolling out maki rolls or don’t know where to even begin, take the plunge and dive into a poke bowl.

I’ve been meaning to try recreating a poke bowl since last Summer.  I am so happy with the results that I shall definitely be making this again.  I’m trying out different flavours and can’t wait to try Furikake Rice Seasoning that is being being brought to me direct from Japan! 

 

Advertisements

Forget flipping! Ban boring crêpes! Give these two exciting pancakes a go this Shrove Tuesday!

 

Whilst everyone else is tossing “flat as a pancake” crêpes, lemon-soused and sprinkled in sugar or slathering Nutella with sliced bananas (all of which were sold out at the local supermarket) think different and hit the latest pancake trends this Shrove Tuesday.

Whereas past trends have been avocado/vegan pancakes and pancake art, this year, think savoury pancakes stacked with streaky bacon and drizzled with unctuous golden syrup; thank you Sabrina Ghayour.  OR if you’ve got a sweet tooth and can’t end your meal without a sweet hit try Japanese soufflé-style pancakes – an internet gourmet-isation! OMG! Simple to make and absolutely amazing to eat; like eating a cloud.

Sweetcorn griddle cakes

IMG_2821

These savoury griddle cakes make for a great evening meal.  They can be totally vegetarian should you wish or deck them with bacon.  Heat is totally optional as is the sweet to drizzle over – we used golden syrup which worked really well at bringing out the sweetness of the corn.  We sprinkled some paprika over to add subtle warmth but chilli jam, sweet chilli sauce, sriracha or dried chilli flakes will work just as well.

Ingredients:

3 spring onions thinly sliced

1 large can sweetcorn drained (or 2 roasted corn on the cob)

150g feta cheese

1/2 bunch coriander

2 eggs

100ml milk

60g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 packet streaky bacon

oil for frying

optional: dried chili flakes, maple syrup, honey, chilli sauce

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 200ºC.  Place the bacon rashers onto an oven tray and bake until crispy.  Drain onto kitchen towel and reduce the heat to 100ºC.

2nd: In a large bowl mix the sliced spring onions, the can of drained sweetcorn, roughly chopped coriander and crumble the feta cheese in.  Add the flour and baking powder.  If using chilli flakes, add these now.  Season to taste but be careful as the feta and bacon will be salty.

3rd: Mix the eggs and milk together and stir into the dry ingredients. 

4th Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat with a splash of oil and spoon heaped spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan.  Fry in batches until golden brown on both sides and keep warm in a low oven whilst you cook the rest of them.

5th: Serve stacked with the bacon rashers balanced between them and drizzled with maple syrup, honey or chilli sauce.

Japanese Souffléd


Pancakes

IMG_2817

Begone crêpes! Flipping pancakes is a thing of the past as people turn to wobbling instead of tossing.  These super fluffy pancakes made with whisked egg white and cooked within a metal ring are twice the thickness of American-style pancakes but are extremely light in texture and wobble in a similar fashion to a soufflé.

Ingredients:

5 tbsp plain flour

1½ tbsp milk

1 tbsp melted unsalted butter

½ tsp vanilla extract

2½ tbsp caster sugar

2 large eggs; separated

¼ tsp cream of tartar or a few drops of lemon juice

Method:

1st: In a bowl, add milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and egg yolks.  Mix well.

2nd: Sift in the flour and gently fold in.

3rd: Add the egg whites and the cream of tartar (or lemon juice) to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk for 5 mins before adding the sugar.  Whisk until the meringue holds its form and you can turn the bowl upside down and the meringue will not slide out.

4th: Scoop out ⅓ of the meringue and add to the egg yolk batter.  Once this is full incorporated, add the remaining ⅔ of the meringue and fold this in gently until everything is a pale yellow and there are no visible white streaks.

5th: Either add butter or use oil spray to the inside of the ring moulds and the griddle / frying pan.  Heat the pan to a low/medium heat and fill the mould ½ the way up.  Add a tsp of water to the pan and close the lid.  I used an upturned pan to create a dome.  Cook for 4-5mins.

6th: When you see the pancakes have risen to the rim of the mould, they are ready to turn over.  Do this with a spatula and take care.  Add a teaspoon of water to the pan and cover for another 3-4 mins until the pancakes are cooked and golden brown on both sides.

7th: Gently, remove the pancakes from their mould.  Serve these warm with any topping of your choice.

Pancake gourmet-isation!

 

 

 

 

I have never been one for bread and butter pudding.  There, I said it.blog-panetonne-bread-butter-pudding-2-780x400

Soaking scrag ends of several loaves of bread into milk or water to form a wet, sloppy, bread crumb and then squeezing out the excess liquid to form a type of masa before mixing in raisins, cinnamon, lemon zest and sprinkling Demerara sugar over before baking in a moderate oven, has never really been my thing.

I mean, I totally get the whole minimising food waste and environmental impact.  In essence, bread pudding is a reincarnation of French toast (pain perdu) which I really like but soggy bread and I are not the best of friends.

img_0772

However, having said that, in New Orleans I tried a tropical, boozy pineapple and coconut bread pudding soused with piña colada mix. And I hate to admit it but I was converted with one mouthful!

The idea that anything could be used to form the base: croissants, two-day old bread, pastries, fruit cake etc and you could add any liquid component you wanted as long as the egg custard mix would set your pudding meant that you were in total control of the texture and consistency as well as the flavour direction of the final product.  

Suddenly bread pudding became exciting.  

My sister-in-law was gifted a tower of treats with a panettone loaf cake in its bottom tier but as we soon found out, not many people are keen on panettone – is it bread or cake? It’s too dry to be cake but not doughy enough to be bread.  What do you have it with?  How do you slice it?  How do you serve it?  Are those raisins and bits of candied peel?  Not surprisingly, some people don’t seem to be too keen on those either!  Pandoro (raisin and candied peel removed) isn’t met with better response. 

But following Gino D’Acampo’s advice, instead of wasting it and throwing it out, we used the panettone very successfully to make a panettone bread pudding.

To make Gino D’Acampo’s Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding you will need:

Ingredients:

1 panettone cake

2 large eggs

4 egg yolks

2 tbsps caster sugar

1 tbsp honey

3 tbsps marsala

400ml whole milk

100ml double cream

Splash of vanilla extract  

Demerara sugar

Icing sugar

Ricotta and honey to serve

img_2511

Method:

1st: Mix the eggs, yolks and caster sugar together.

2nd: Add the honey, vanilla, marsala, milk and double cream. Whisk but not too vigorously.  Set aside.

3rd: Slice the panettone cake into inch thick slices and arrange in an oven proof dish with the sides sticking up.

4th: Ladle the eggy mixture over the panettone slices until the bread has soaked up most of the liquid.  Allow the mixture to soak into the panettone before placing in the oven.   NB You may not need all the mixture.

5th: Sprinkle Demerera sugar all over the top.

6th: Bake in an oven at 160ºC for 25mins until top is browned and crunchy.  Dust with icing sugar. Serve with ricotta and honey.

Might need to run to the supermarket and buy a panettone before the end of the season just to make this again!

Happy New Year everybody.

Gastrorob

There is something very British about pheasant. Images of men in tweed, wearing Barbour jackets, valets reloading rifles before handing them back to their masters and hounds with bird in mouth come to mind. Cooks and servants at the manor preparing a banquet in celebration of the glut of birds shot.

Thomas Becket famously dined on pheasant the night before his infamously violent death in 1170. Tudor kings and queens dined on elaborate pheasant dishes with colourful plumes adorning the roasted bird. And we often read about pheasant being cooked in Dickensian stories and Austen novels, so it surprises me, that all things considered, how infrequently we see it in restaurants and supermarkets.

Both chicken and pheasant were recorded as having been brought to Europe by Phoenician traders but chicken with its bland taste and texture has won universal acclaim; with people usually eating chicken more than twice a week in different reincarnations.

This Christmas, my nephew mentioned he’d never tried pheasant; actually, neither had the rest of us in the family. As Christmas Day traditions must be kept (turkey is a must) we tried cooking pheasant for the first time in the run up to Christmas.

Having read the butcher’s instructions on the label of the plucked, prepackaged, plastic wrapped pheasants and several internet searches later, it was clear that pheasant are in danger of drying out in the oven.

img_2382

On taking the bird out of its packaging to place on its roasting trivet, the smell was strong and putrid. Slightly worried about this we looked at each other quizzically and thought, let’s just give this a go, if we don’t like it we just won’t cook it again. Admittedly whilst it sat on the trivet the smell seemed to dissipate and our fears were allayed.

We were not inflicting food poisoning on ourselves a few days before Christmas!

We prepared a herb butter and squeezed this between skin and breast meat. And stuffed the cavity with dried prunes and figs – the pheasant can take bold flavours; having bold flavours (and smells) itself. Truss the bird up before putting it into the oven so that the stuffing remains in the cavity and if you have any streaky bacon (we didn’t) protect the breast meat by laying several rashers across it.

Roast the bird on its trivet of vegetables for anything from 1hr 10mins to 1hr 30mins at 180°C. Allow to rest whilst you tend to gravy and mashed potatoes and any other vegetable side dish you’re serving.

img_2426

In terms of flavour, the breast meat had a slight herby/gamey taste but otherwise was quite transient and could pretty much carry other flavours with it but the leg meat, especially the drumstick was very strong and bold in flavour. Texture-wise this again was different, the leg meat was juicy, however, the breast meat was very dry.

I dare say that with repeated practise you’d be able to hone in your pheasant roasting skills or maybe even prefer cooking it in a slow cooker or in other guises.

With gravy, stuffing and mash this makes for a delicious autumnal/wintery evening meal sat in the warmth of your homely kitchen. As with other birds, the key is not to dry it out – the herb butter and streaky bacon will go a long way in protecting the integrity of the breast meat but keep an eye on this. Depending on the size of the pheasant being served it may be pertinent to think of half a bird per person so that they can try the leg and breast meat as there are joys to be had in both.

788e38fd-c26a-45e3-bf5c-5aa675bb6e18

Pheasant season runs from 1st October to 1st February, so even if you’re not up to cooking pheasant during the Christmas season you can give it a go in the new year. If I can locate pheasant back home, I’d definitely be game to give it another go (pun intended).

img_2442

There is something very British about pheasant. Images of men in tweed, wearing Barbour jackets, valets reloading rifles before handing them back to their masters and hounds with bird in mouth come to mind. Cooks and servants at the manor preparing a banquet in celebration of the glut of birds shot.

Thomas Becket famously dined on pheasant the night before his infamously violent death in 1170. Tudor kings and queens dined on elaborate pheasant dishes with colourful plumes adorning the roasted bird. And we often read about pheasant being cooked in Dickensian stories and Austen novels, so it surprises me, that all things considered, how infrequently we see it in restaurants and supermarkets.

Both chicken and pheasant were recorded as having been brought to Europe by Phoenician traders but chicken with its bland taste and texture has won universal acclaim; with people usually eating chicken more than twice a week in different reincarnations.

Fast forward to the present day:

This Christmas, my nephew mentioned he’d never tried pheasant; actually, neither had the rest of us in the family. As Christmas Day traditions must be kept (turkey is a must) we tried cooking pheasant for the first time in the run up to Christmas.

Having read the butcher’s instructions on the label of the plucked, prepackaged, plastic wrapped pheasants and several internet searches later, it was clear that pheasant are in danger of drying out in the oven.

On taking the bird out of its packaging to place on its roasting trivet, the smell was strong and putrid. Slightly worried about this we looked at each other quizzically and thought, let’s just give this a go, if we don’t like it we just won’t cook it again. Admittedly whilst it sat on the trivet the smell seemed to dissipate and our fears were allayed.

We were not inflicting food poisoning on ourselves a few days before Christmas! Phew!!

img_2382

We prepared a herb butter and squeezed this between skin and breast meat. And stuffed the cavity with dried prunes and figs – the pheasant can take bold flavours; having bold flavours (and smells) itself. Truss the bird up before putting it into the oven so that the stuffing remains in the cavity and if you have any streaky bacon (we didn’t) protect the breast meat by laying several rashers across it.

Roast the bird on its trivet of vegetables for anything from 1hr 10mins to 1hr 30mins at 180°C. Allow to rest whilst you tend to gravy and mashed potatoes and any other vegetable side dish you’re serving.

img_2426

In terms of flavour, the breast meat had a slight herby/gamey taste but otherwise was quite transient and could pretty much carry other flavours with it but the leg meat, especially the drumstick was very strong and bold in flavour. Texture-wise this again was different, the leg meat was juicy, however, the breast meat was very dry.

I dare say that with repeated practise you’d be able to hone in your pheasant roasting skills or maybe even prefer cooking it in a slow cooker or in other guises.

With gravy, stuffing and mash this makes for a delicious autumnal/wintery evening meal sat in the warmth of your homely kitchen. As with other birds, the key is not to dry it out – the herb butter and streaky bacon will go a long way in protecting the integrity of the breast meat but keep an eye on this. Depending on the size of the pheasant being served it may be pertinent to think of half a bird per person so that they can try the leg and breast meat as there are joys to be had in both.

Pheasant season runs from 1st October to 1st February, so even if you’re not up to cooking pheasant during the Christmas season you can give it a go in the new year. If I can locate pheasant back home, I’d definitely be game to give it another go (pun intended).

Enjoy

Gastrorob

IMG-0088

I often reminisce as to the joys of my Granny’s pea soup with fried bread.

I used to love walking into the house on a cold, bleak day to the smell of gammon bubbling in its cauldron of yellow split peas.  If truth be told, when done well, pea soup is probably one of my favourite dishes of all time.

I remember we’d dry our rain-wet hair and crowd around the dining table.  Snuggled round a small, circular table, elbows touching, necks down plunging spoons into the golden, lava-hot, gloopy, yellow split pea soup we’d share our morning’s routines.

 The delicious chunks of gammon having imparted their flavour and savouriness to the mixture, which falling apart added great flavour and substance to the dish.  Scooping ham and soup on slices of fried bread is what made this soup a meal.

My Granny would shallow fry a slice of white bread per person – crusts and all – and then slice it on the diagonal.   This, dipped into the thick pea soup was utter heaven to me.

I love yellow split pea and ham soup so much, that my shock at once being given green pea and ham soup by my great aunt was an unfortunate disappointment; flavoursome though it was!  But my all time favourite pea soup tale was when I was a vegetarian (now that I’ve told you I may have to kill you!) and I’d returned from university and my Granny had made my favourite dish and assured me that she hadn’t added the ham but you could see the pink gammon flecks throughout the entire bowl!  I think she then tried to offer me a cheese sandwich with a very thin slice of ham…

Admittedly, my Granny was right; there is no point in having pea soup without the gammon.  It’s the gammon that imparts a full on rounded flavour and seasons the soup with great depth.  Sometimes, pieces of the gammon flake off in the cooking and get blitzed into the soup adding to the savoury baconness!

A different kind of meal to be had at this time of year where everything is either a turkey dinner or Christmas table leftovers.

4323177072-IMG-4590

At this time of year I always like to make a glazed ham (as many of you do too).  As always, I buy a large piece to ensure there are leftovers but there’s only so many cold-cuts with chutneys to be had.   With the rain pouring down outside, I want something warm and comforting instead of cold-cuts, so why not add your already cooked ham to a pot of bubbling yellow split peas to make glorious pea soup with its volcanic ferocity warming you through these cold and dark nights.

Pea Soup with Fried Bread4323177072-IMG-4597

Yellow split pea soup is so easy to recreate you can cook the gammon in the soup itself or add cooked ham pieces to the final soup.  Either way – this is a delicious thick soup that like a hot water bottle warms and comforts you.  Fried bread takes this to another level but pan fried croutons or the healthier oven variety convert this into a satisfying main course.

I keep this really simple:

Ingredients:

1 cup of split peas, 1 medium onion, slice of pumpkin to add colour and sweetness and a stock cube.  Uncooked gammon or leftover boiled ham to taste.

4323177072-IMG-4600Method:

1st: Cut the onion and pumpkin into pieces and fry in some oil until the onion becomes soft.
2nd: Add the split peas and crumble in the stock cube. Stir well and add the gammon/boiled ham.
3rd: Top up with enough water to cover the gammon – at least 3 times more water to split peas.  Boil for 35mins or until the gammon is cooked.  Season to taste.
4th: Remove any large chunks of gammon and blitz the soup.  Flake any gammon pieces and add them to individual bowls.
5th: Fry slices of plastic white bread in hot oil.  Slice on the diagonal and serve up.

If I could only use one herb or spice for the rest of my life, seasoning aside, I would have to (pun intended) stick with cinnamon.

cinn.jpg

Spice prized for both flavour and medicinal properties; the brown coloured, woody spice is evocatively aromatic with warming sweet and savoury notes at the same time.

Ancient Romans used cinnamon to make their bitter wine palatable and Ancient Greeks used cinnamon to season meat and vegetable dishes.  The Arabic world used it to flavour tea and now include it in most sweet and savoury dishes.  The rest of the world add it to baked goods and continue to sprinkle it over sweet treats and desserts.

Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties; it helps protect cognitive function, the heart and fight diabetes.  Regular cinnamon use, such as sprinkled over your morning porridge, can help lower your glycemic load and even help you to lose weight.

In cooking, the sweet-spicy flavour and warmth of cinnamon enhances the taste of fruits and vegetables, is a perfect partner for chocolate and no apple pie would be worth eating without cinnamon.

When baking with cinnamon, the entire house smells comforting and feels safe, warm and homely.

As the temperature drops and autumn makes itself known to us it’s this feeling of comfort and warmth that I’m trying to evoke through my food but I’m not ready for hot custard over fruit crumbles sprinkled with cinnamon nor hearty stews infused with cinnamon stick; something sweet to accompany a morning coffee sounds just right and there is nothing better than a cinnamon roll in the morning (or at any other time of day!)

93954A1B-7486-4594-A74C-BD8A8EA20659 (1)

Proper cinnamon rolls can be cumbersome to make as you need to make an enriched dough, allow time to prove etc. as can be seen above but they are seriously good to eat.  However, there are a couple of cheats that make this easy to do for breakfast without even having changed out of your PJ’s.

Cheat Cinnamon Rolls

7583883360-IMG-4440

Ingredients:
1 Pack of Puff Pastry
Melted butter
Brown Sugar
Cinnamon powder
Icing Sugar and water for the glaze

Method:
1st: Spread the melted butter over the unrolled puff pastry
2nd:  Sprinkle over the brown sugar and cinnamon powder.
3rd: Roll the pastry back up and cut into slices.
Place in a preheated oven at 200˚C for 10-14mins or until puffed and golden.
4th: Allow to cool on a wire rack and once cool prepare your glaze.  Drizzle over your cinnamon rolls.

Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most varied on the planet.  From the Chinese and Khmer dynasties, Indian empire and Japanese occupation but in particular, the French colonial rulers.  Vietnam is a delicious mix of the food of its colonial visitors and native techniques and flavours.  War, climate and immigration tell the tale of Vietnamese cuisine.  

Vietnamese cuisine is incredibly light and fresh; herby-fresh: lemongrass, mint, coriander and Thai basil frequently mixed through dishes.  Fish sauce is used liberally but is never as pungent as the Thai variety (nam pla) and vegetables such as carrot, cabbage or green papaya are chopped into crunchy batons adding colour and texture to a dish.

People sat curbside on plastic stools enjoying a bowl of pho or congee before dealing with the rest of their day; the smell of food wafting through side streets and intoxicating the senses.   Food is pivotal to Vietnamese lifestyle and can be found on every street corner.  The food served in local cafes and restaurants just as good as the street-food served by women carrying a yoke around the town or balancing baskets on hips.

All dishes are created with the Asian principle of the five elements creating harmony. The principle of yin and yang providing balance that is beneficial to the body: wood (sour), fire (bitter), earth (sweet), metal (spicy), water (salty).

So having just got back from my travels in Vietnam I couldn’t wait to get back in the kitchen and try and recreate some delicious Vietnamese dishes with these principles in mind.

Here is my version of a Vietnamese Chicken Salad with noodles using the ingredients I had in the fridge at the time.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad (Gŏi Gá).

IMG_0062

Ingredients:
For the dressing:
Limes
Palm sugar
Fish Sauce
Garlic
Hot Water
Chilli (to taste)

For the salad:
Carrot
Cabbage (White or Asian)
Red Pepper
Sugar snap peas
Rice Noodles (vermicelli)
Cooked chicken breast
Mint
Basil (use Thai Basil if you can find some)
Coriander
Roasted peanuts (red skinned)

Method:

1st: Prepare the sauce by adding the juice of a lime, palm sugar, fish sauce, minced garlic, chilli and hot water to a jar and shake well until all the sugar is dissolved or place into a blender and blitz until everything is thoroughly mixed together.

2nd: Cut the carrot and red pepper into batons.  Roll the cabbage leaves and slice into strips.  Tear the cooked chicken breast into mouth sized pieces.   Cut the mint, basil and coriander.

Thai Basil v Italian Basil
Thai basil has an aniseed, almost liquorice, flavour to it whereas, Italian (Mediterranean basil) is sweet.  Both are incredibly fragrant.
If you can’t find Thai basil which is generally difficult to source outside of Asia, just use a combination of Italian basil and mint.

3rd: Pour boiling water over the vermicelli noodles and allow to rehydrate for 2/3mins.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  Drain and shake off excess water.

4th: In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together and add a splash of the sauce.  Toss together.  Add more sauce and lime juice to taste and drizzle with sesame oil (optional) and top with roasted peanuts.

90ADE8EF-EC6B-423B-89F7-D95E42E9FC38 (1)

Serve heaped on a large plate in the centre of the table for everyone to serve themselves as part of a main course or make it small enough as a light lunch for one – the ingredients can be doubled up and changed to suit what you’ve got in the fridge.  During the summer I tend to have carrots and cabbage knocking about in the fridge to make coleslaw and I’ve always got red peppers in my deep freeze.  Remember to use veg that you can eat raw as you need it to be fresh and crunchy to work in this dish. I used nuggets of palm sugar brought back from Cambodia but regular granulated sugar works just as well.

The great thing about dishes like this is that you can tailor make them to suit your needs – instead of chicken add duck for a different taste, fried squid to make it a super light summer meal, tofu to keep it meat-free.  I say chilli to taste as depending on how much heat you can take will determine whether you use birds eye chillies or opt for a milder variety.  Always remember you could make this very fresh and mild and provide either birds eye chillies or tabasco sauce for those who can take a bit more heat.

Chúc ngon miêng
Bon apetite!

Vault 13

Posted: September 14, 2019 in Restaurant Review

Vault 13.jpg

as published on YGTV

Nestled in the corner between Gin & Wines and My Wines, we find the latest offering that Chatham Counterguard has to give us; Vault 13.

“From old foundations to new beginnings” 

Having transformed itself from the Wright Tech Media premises into a small plates and cocktail bar, has been a giant step for William Wright, proprietor.  

The vault, restored to original brick and stone, provides a unique setting with subtle overhead lighting in blue and lilac hues, reflecting the handcrafted wooden tables with cobalt blue centres.     The glass wall at the end of the vault showcases the kitchen area – an approach which always inspires cleanliness and confidence in diners.

From the opening on 5th August, they have been running with a soft launch menu of open faced tostas, small plate dishes, salads and meat dishes; quite a generous list with a simple cheese and charcuterie selection.

Many dishes on the menu will be familiar such as prawns al pil-pil and huevos rotos which, even though delicious, can be found on menus along the strip but there are many other dishes worth a try – the staff are always friendly and on hand to talk you through any dishes you might not be sure about.

IMG_4205.jpg

We ordered the chicharrones whilst we looked through the menu.  These were man-sized, home made pork scratchings.  Crispy, aerated, puffed, pork-scented bites.  Personally, I would have preferred them to be saltier to be the perfect accompaniment with an ice cold beer!

On various occasions, I have now ordered the pulled pork tosta with spicy mayo and chicharrones which is one of my favourite bites.  The tender pulled pork, laced with asian flavours of soy, star anise and topped with a mini version of the chicharrones mentioned above; a pork-flavoured Quaver.

IMG_4246.jpg

The pork belly bao bun with pickled cucumber and spicy mayo is also another of my regular choices.  The bao bun light and fluffy, every bite yielding through to the asian-flavoured pork belly.  The pickled cucumber providing texture and acidity to the earthy flavours of star anise and soy.

The round red prawn croquettes are a friend’s favourite and she always orders them – presented in a ceramic egg carton; each golden sphere sitting on a dollop of aioli, however, sometimes the aioli has been decoratively sat on top of the croquette.   Size of the croquettes has also been inconsistent, fluctuating from XXL (a two biter) to M (pop in the mouth size) – there needs to be greater consistency in execution and presentation.

IMG_4204.jpg

I never got to try the sticky toffee pudding which I have been told, “Is to die for!” So much so, that the person in question actually orders these to take home at the end of the meal.

I’ve also been told that there is a “Cocktail of the Week” – Raspberry Gin Fizz and Sweet Dreams being popular amongst those who’ve tried them but I have never seen this on their menu nor been encouraged/offered these on any of the occasions I have been to Vault 13.  Perhaps something that can be thought about for the future.  Put up some posters at the entrance encouraging people to request the cocktail of the week or ask people if you can get them a taster glass of the Cocktail of the Week (at a reduced price) whilst they look through the menu – just a suggestion.

Also, I was not impressed and will not abide my glass being taken off me during a meal and replaced by a single-use plastic cup because the fear is that I may disappear with it to another bar along the strip.  As someone enjoying an evening dining with grown-ups I felt that this was perhaps out of place and inappropriate for a restaurant.  

Operate this policy for people who pop in to buy a drink rather than diners who are sat at tables.

There is much to enjoy at Vault 13.  I especially liked trying different dishes to what can be found elsewhere on the strip and other restaurants around Gibraltar.  I particularly like their Asian inspired small plates and hope to see this idea evolve into others: Asian popcorn shrimp bao, chicken teriyaki with sesame seed bao, fried chicken with smashed avo, pulled hoisin duck bao with cucumbers and spring onions – the list is endless.

I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for Vault 13;  how William and his team continue to grow and develop their menu and the service they provide and how once the training wheels are taken off, their soft launch becomes a full (hard) launch with a full menu.

I’ll definitely return – after all, who can keep me away from those delicious pulled-pork tostas?!

  

Several years ago, I was taken to a hidden gem of a chiringuito (beach bar) which instead of being on ochre, sandy shores lapped by the azure blue waters of the Atlantic, was located on a raised promontory overlooking the beaches of Tarifa below.  Arriving for an early lunch, we chose to sit at a suspended table that gently swayed with the breeze, lulling us under the shade of the pine trees.

As romantic as this sounds, in hindsight, it was probably not the most convenient of places to sit at for lunch as between our crossed legs, our beach bags and cutlery there was hardly any room for the plates!  Salads and fish were ordered but there was one standout dish that I shall always associate it with that suspended table under the pine trees; atún encebollado.

Screenshot 2019-08-09 at 12.05.44

divinacocina

From what I could conceive at the time, it was just large cubes of fresh tuna cooked in an onion broth.  Both delicious and easy to recreate…or so I thought; having tried different versions of this at various restaurants and tapas bars.

I recently came across a youtube clip by Karlos Arguiñano, a chef from the Basque Country (Spain) who I used to watch on TV as a child, where he was preparing the dish, atún encebollado and decided it was time to give it a go myself.

I like the idea of serving this over potatoes but not chips, as happens in many tapas bars but roast potatoes just won’t do in this dish as you don’t want crunchy bits.  Pommes de terre à la boulangère, with a texture that almost dissolves into the bouillon is ideal as it mirrors the texture of the tuna.

Atún Encebollado with my cheat Pommes de Terre à la Boulangère

This dish has two parts – the tuna and the potatoes which I recommend are cooked indepedently of eachother.  Some recipes will ask for potatoes, tuna and onions be cooked simultaneously as a casserole but I’m not a fan of doing it this way.  Work with the potatoes first as this needs a longer cooking and is more forgiving should you need to do this ahead of time and won’t dry out should the dish need to sit for a while whilst you organise yourself with the tuna.  Use stock cubes/liquid bouillon to speed up the process.

Pommes de Terre à la Boulangère (my quick cheat version)

Ingredients:Potatoes-Boulangere

3 large potatoes
1 large white onion
2 garlic cloves
A sprig of thyme
2 Bay leaves
A glass of white wine/dry sherry
1/2 litre Vegetable stock
Butter
Oil
Salt and pepper

Method: 

1st: Slice the onion and sauté in oil and butter until translucent (5-10mins).
2nd: Slice the potatoes into thick slices; skin on and add to the onions. Sauté for 10mins.
3rd:  Deglaze the pan with a good glug of white wine.  Chop the garlic cloves and add to the pan with the thyme and bay leaves.  Season well and pour in the vegetable stock.
4th:Make sure the stock just covers the potatoes and simmer for 10-15mins.
5th: Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
6th: Butter the bottom and sides of an oven dish.  Add the potatoes, onion and stock and cook in the oven until the potatoes are tender and coloured on top.

Atún EncebolladoBonito-encebollado-1

Cook this once the potatoes have gone into the oven or at a later time.

Ingredients:

500g tuna
5 medium white onions
2 garlic cloves
1/2 litre of fish stock
A glass of white wine/dry sherry
1 Tspn pimentón (dulce)
1 Bay leaf
Butter
Oil
Parsley to decorate (optional)

Method:

1st: Slice the onions and sauté in oil and butter until translucent (5-10mins)
2nd: Deglaze the pan with a good glug of white wine.  Chop the garlic cloves and add to the pan with the bay leaf and the pimentón.  Season well and pour in the fish stock.
Simmer for approx 15mins making sure the pan does not dry out.
3rd: Cut the tuna steaks (I prefer using fatty tuna for a dish like this) into large chunks and add to the onions towards the end of the cooking time. Serve once cooked.

Note: If you prefer using tuna loin instead of fatty tuna, I recommend not adding this to the onions but to griddle it to your liking and then serve with the onions poured over.

Serve hot and as Karlos himself would say, “Rico, rico con fundamento.”