Ok so as you can see from the picture, this is not your typical tagine we’re talking about here as although they are delicious I don’t usually have the time or patience to go the whole hog, but I do love the flavours so I whipped up this cheats version thats also easy for kids to eat. It was a few weeks ago now so the quantities may be a bit freelance but you can adjust to taste. Likewise add whatever vege you like, the following worked well but the options are endless depending on what you prefer and it’s a good dish for those nights when you can’t really be arsed to think about what to cook!
500gms of lean lamb mince
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
1 courgette chopped into small pieces
1 coloured pepper – I used a mixture of red and yellow
1 red onion roughly chopped
A large handful of raisins or sultanas
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Generous pinch of corriander powder
1/4 cup of vege stock (although add slowly to taste – you may need less)
3 Tblsp Japanese Mirin (rice wine vinegar)
Cup of fresh pomegranate seeds
This is a pretty easy one to throw together, brown the onions and mince together with the spices then add the vege, raisins, stock and mirin and cook until liquid has reduced, mince is cooked through and vege is lightly done. Pop on some cous cous and serve together with a smattering of fresh pomegranate seeds on top. Absolutely scrummy and very ‘moor-ish’ ( bad pun I know!)
Did someone say licquorice? Aniseed? Five Spice? Star Anise? Hello I’m your best friend, please invite me to your house for dinner……I love these flavours. I’m not sure when and how and the love affair started by it would probably be a tie between aniseed wheel sweets and licquorice straps back in the day, well my early days that is. Anyways, you get the picture, I’m a fan, but oddly not so much of the similar flavoured alcoholic drinks like Ouzo, Opal Nera, Arak etc which probably has something to do with close encounters with the carpet, as in faceplanted into the Berber weave or planting myself unexpectedly in a random garden after consuming too many of these in one sitting back in my wayard youth/life before children.
So, where were we? Oh yes, cooking. So I got the sudden craving this week for a Vietnamese-style Star-Anise hit and a couple of Google clicks later I had found enough recipes in a similar vein to sort of wing it, whilst adhering to the key ingredients. At some point I’ll get around to writing a post on my top collection of spices, sauces and condiments from around the globe that just work with almost everything, or at least I think so but I do have peculiar tastes sometimes. It just so happens that Chinese Five Spice is one of those super spices that goes well with chicken, beef, pork….not sure about fish but I could be tempted to try!
Moving right along, I decided to make a version of Bo Kho – Vietnamese Beef, Tomato, Star Anise and Lemongrass stew with quite a good dose of ginger to give it a kick. Vietnamese food is amazing, well what I’ve tried of it which to be frank isn’t much but I adore the fresh rice paper rolls with egg and shrimp or tofu and snow peas dipped in a pungent/sweet sauce…….I ate this every day for a week in Siam Reap (yes I realise thats not Vietnam but it was close!)
Good grief. So without further ado I give you my extremely tasty version of Bo Kho, which only uses 1 pot – bonus non-washing up points!
I got the recipe from www.culinate.com and apparently it is from the book Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nyugen, but have changed it around a little to suit my tastes. I also just stumbled across the following food blog which is awesome, I’m going to try some of the recipes on there asap! have a look at www.anappleadaynutrition.com.au
700gms lean stewing steak cut into generous chunks
1 large stalk of Lemongrass, fresh or preserved
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
2-3 Tbsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
3 tsp. brown sugar
1 Bay leaf
3 Tbsp. stirfry oil (combo of sesame and canola, maybe peanut oil)
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes or 2 cups of fresh chopped
Generous ½ teaspoon salt
3 Star anise
3 cups water
1 large carrot chopped into short sticks
8 baby corn chopped into thirds
1 giant field mushroom or if you can get them try Japanese Enoki mushrooms as I think they’ll work well
1 cup chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves
This is the original method although I sped up the cooking process by turning up the heat but the meat was still pretty tender
- In a bowl, combine the beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, five-spice powder, ginger, brown sugar, and bay leaf. Mix well with chopsticks to coat the beef evenly. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
- In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, add the beef and sear on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3 minutes. Reserve the lemongrass and bay leaf from the marinade and discard the rest.
- Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onion and cook gently, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the tomatoes and salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste. Check occasionally to make sure the tomato mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. If it does, stir well and splash in some water.
- When the paste has formed, add the beef, lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Give the contents of the pot a bit of a stir, and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and penetrate the beef. Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1¼ hours, or until the beef is chewy-tender (a sign that it is close to being done). To test for doneness, press on a piece; it should yield but still feel firm.
- Add the carrots and return the stew to a simmer, adjusting the heat if needed. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots and beef are tender. (This stew may be made up to 2 days in advance. Let cool, cover and refrigerate, then bring to a simmer before continuing.)
- Just before serving, do a final taste test. Add salt or a shot of fish sauce to intensify the overall flavor. Or, splash in a bit of water to lighten the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish, removing and discarding the lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Garnish with chopped Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves.
We ate it as is without any starches to accompany it but you could serve it over steamed rice as the flavours are pretty intense and the rice would nicely soak up the sauce. Otherwise it would make an awesome salad topping the next day maybe with some Asian coleslaw. Have fun cooking!
To truly appreciate this dish you should attempt to make it in the style it was conceived, by walking three flights of stairs down to the kitchen, forget some of the ingredients so repeat the stair climb in reverse and then nearly burn it whilst trying to placate a post nap toddler tantrum. Now that you are in a suitable state of Chaos, you can begin cooking.
This yummy warm salad is really easy to throw together, which is lucky as I don’t do precision very well. It makes an awesome lunch on its own or as an alternative side-salad to the usual green lettuce affair. I have a bit of an obsession with salads, in fact I could be accused of salad snobbery on many occasions as it irks me no end that many restaurants and cafes are so unimaginative with their offerings in this department and offer up a limp and rather bland iceburg lettuce with shredded carrot and mushy tomato number. This is the salad equivalent of white sliced bread, boring and not very nice to eat! I apologise if this is how you like yours, as I said I am a salad snob but I can acknowledge others may like it just the way it is.
My salad ingredient du jour, actually not just du jour but every day, is rocket, or ruccola if you happen to be Italian or girgir in the Middle East. I use it as an accompaniment for all sorts of meals as it has a delicious peppery taste, (yes it has taste!) which goes well with almost anything you choose to mix it with. I guess it is my lettuce substitute, it renders lettuce unecessary with its delicious bite size brilliance. Anyway, enough waxing lyrical about the wonders of rocket and on with the show.
Warm Roast Squash (or Pumpkin), Yellow Pepper and Goats Cheese Salad
NB: In NZ an Aussie use Pumpkin for roasting as it has a fuller flavour than the watery ones in the UK. Elsewhere – experiment with whichever gives you a better taste
1 average size squash or pumpkin (depending on how many you’re feeding)
1 yellow pepper
3-4 cloves of garlic (I’m a fan)
1 packet of creamy mild goats cheese
Splash of Tesco’s stirfry oil (contains blend on sesame oil sunflower oil I think which gives it a nice nuttyness but you can use olive oil)
Handful of fresh rocket baby leaf salad
Simple as! Chop the squash/pumpkin into chunks (I leave the skin on but you can skin it if you prefer). Smash some garlic with the flat surface of a knife blade and rub in a pinch of salt, then chop it roughly. Chop pepper into strips. Throw all of the above in a roasting dish with about 2-3 Tblsp of oil and roast on about 180-190 c until soft, and before its burnt preferably! Should take about 20 mins. Skin the pumpkin pieces and arrange on a bed of rocket baby leaf salad, add the peppers and goats cheese chunks and then dress with balsamic and olive oil. Amazing!
I you have a young baby in the house, you can always mash or whiz the ingredients up (you might want to go easy on the garlic and oil and check the goats cheese is pasteurized) and serve as gourmet mush!
I’m going to begin with a disclaimer: Should your dish turn out to resemble a pub carpet after closing and contain seemingly bizarre flavour combinations you have successfully followed my instructions, but try it anyway as you might be surprised.
With that said it should be evident that I am no kitchen goddess, I love food and I love variety and sometimes these two passions can present interesting results, but for now I am going to share some of the milder examples of my cooking experiments.
As Ioan is the head chef in our household, I’m not actually in the kitchen that often but I’m not complaining! Some couples, you know who you are, take it to another level and compete against each other for title of best tomato chutney guru or bread-baking boffin, which I think is very cute and keeps the spark alive, or at least is very amusing for the kids.
However, it seems like my new-found domesticity has triggered an urge to dredge up some culinary skills, but I am counting on some of you to share your saucy secrets here as well, so drop me a line!
Here’s my latest attempt and I know you’ll excuse the slightly blurry photo of a half eaten dish…..it was too yummy to wait.
This particular concoction was a product of what was in the fridge at the time and my recent efforts to lay off wheat products for a while, more about that another day. So as well as being pretty tasty, it’s gluten free and mostly carb free as well, in case you are following a low carb diet, otherwise a sneaky way to try and get kids to eat their veges/lighter version of the original for summer meals.
The madness in the method is as follows: (roughly speaking as I’m not a stickler for measurements!)
- 500gms of beef mince
- 3 decent sized courgettes
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- A few brown mushrooms
- Yellow capsicum (peppers)
- 1/2 a red onion
- 1-2 Tablespoons of tomato paste (according to taste)
- A large squeeze of organic tomato sauce or tomato chutney (leave this out for low carb diets)
- A few dashes of soy sauce (gluten free if applies)
- Dash of oregano or Italian herbs
- 3-4 cloves of pref organic garlic (or to taste)
- Olive oil
- Cheese (I used light cheddar but you could use anything)
Fry onions & garlic in a little olive oil until softened. Add the mince and herbs and stir constantly until lightly browned. Throw in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and ketchup followed by a dash or 4 of soy sauce. Chuck in the mushies and capsicum and blend with the rest of the mixture until lightly cooked.
Use a vegetable peeler to make thin slices of courgette, I cut mine in half so the pieces wouldn’t be too difficult to eat. Place one layer of courgettes on the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with grated cheese then top with a thin layer of the mince mixture, repeat this process for the next layer and top with courgettes and cheese……but make sure to cover with tin foil and push your courgettes into the mixture a little so they stay moist while cooking.
Pop the whole thing into an oven on around 180 celcius and cook for about 15-20 mins….just keep an eye to see when the courgettes are lightly cooked through (not mushy).
Hey presto! A pretty easy and pretty healthy meal…..
I’d love to feature some tomato chutney recipes……and as its a competitive field, perhaps we can do an opinion poll on the best one?
Send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org…..or put them in the comments field below! Game on.