So we’re nearing spring and that tells me that it’s time to start eating some salads! This dish can be served warm or cold, but either way, it’s fresh, spicy, fragrant and is good for any time of year. It makes you feel like you’re somewhere tropical even when you’re not.
Using classic South East Asian ingredients, I came up with this salad based on all my favourite qualities a salad can have… Freshness, flavour, texture, colour, level of nutrition and of course level of satisfaction.
To make the dressing, it’s key to get the balance of salty, sour and sweet just right in Asian cooking. With soft noodles, fresh crunchy vegetables, crunchy peanuts and fried anchovies and fresh fragrant flavours coming from the herbs and lemongrass; you end up an uplifting combination of textures and flavours.
Although coriander is never going to be knocked off top spot, Thai holy basil is my herb of the moment. Thai basil has always been a bit more mysterious. One of my favourite Thai dishes has always been the stir fry basil with chilli. Seemingly simple there is always this amazing flavour that was almost unknown and you couldn’t find anywhere else. Now you can buy Thai holy basil in supermarkets!* Which doesn’t take away any of its exoticness or mystique as the flavour is like no other herb. (Although true of course of all herbs). I’ve started using it regularly and adding it to a lot more than Thai dishes; it adds a great twist to dishes. It’s become a favourite salad herb for me, as you would have seen in my last blog post on the Fragrant Herb and Seeded salad.
And then there’s lemongrass, another favourite flavour for me, and flavour wise, lemongrass of course is amazing for just that alone, but it is also extremely good for you as well!
It’s an excellent source of minerals; potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium in particular is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
Lemongrass as an analgesic has powerful pain relieving properties. It helps to alleviate muscle spasms by relaxing the muscles leading to the reduction of pain-related symptoms. It is useful for all types of pain including abdominal pain, headaches, joint pains, muscle pains, digestive tract spasms, muscle cramps, stomach ache. It also aides digestion and helps increase blood circulation and has been linked to lowered and normalised cholesterol levels.
As an antifungal and antibacterial, lemongrass inhibits bacteria and yeast growth. As an antioxidant, lemongrass contributes to liver and pancreatic health by helping the body to remove toxins from the liver, pancreas, kidneys and bladder more quickly.
On the beauty side of things, lemongrass is also helpful for skin issues, helping to brighten the skin and eyes through it ‘s vitamin A content, it’s helps keep skin clear and it’s antibacterial property is useful for skin infections and acne.
So there you go, start cooking with my lemongrass and you’ll be better off for it! You can also buy or make your own delicious lemongrass tea. A nice light floral warmer.
Lemongrass Prawn Mung Bean Noodles
4 tbsp lime juice (1-2 limes)
4 tbsp Fish Sauce
2 tbsp Coconut palm Sugar
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
3 Lemongrass, outer leaves removed and core finely chopped
1 red Birds Eye Chili, finely chopped (optional)
100g Mung Bean Noodles or brown rice noodles
2tbsp peanut oil or another good quality flavour less oil
20g dried shrimp
1 King Oyster mushroom
50g Blanched Green Beans, cut into cm diagonal pieces, or sugar snap peas raw cut into 1 cm pieces
50g Bean sprouts
1 bunch Thai Basil, picked
1 bunch Coriander, picked
50g fried whole peanuts, lightly crush
30g dried anchovy, fried
Marinade for the Prawns
1 cm turmeric, ground 1 tsp Turmeric powder
2tbsp of the dressing
12 king prawns
Firstly prepare the dressing, mix together the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar to dissolve the sugar, coconut sugar is very fine and dissolves quickly. Mix in the other ingredients.
Take 2 tbsp of the dressing and add the turmeric, mix and add your prawns coating well, set aside to marinate for half an hour.
While the prawns are marinating prepare the rest of your ingredients. When you are ready to cook the noodles you need to have everything at hand and it will take just minutes.
To blanch the beans bring a pan of salted water to the boil, there must be plenty of room for the beans. Once it’s boiling, add the beans, cooking for just a minute, they should still be bright green with crunch. Take them out of the water and place in a bowl of iced water. Remove and slice. Slice the oyster mushrooms across.
Boil a large pan of water, once boiling add the noodles and turn off, stir to stop the noodles clumping. They will take just a few minutes to cook so keep an eye on them, after 3-4 minutes check, drain and rinse under cold water. Leave to drain.
Heat a large fry pan or wok. Add the peanut oil, cook the prawns done, once done removed from the pan and set aside. Then add the dried shrimp, fry for a minute, add the mushrooms, fry for another 2 minutes and add the noodles, the dressing, green beans, beansprouts, toss until well mixed and heated through.
Remove from the pan into a large mixing bowl, add the peanuts, fried anchovy, herbs, and prawns, mix well and taste for seasoning, garnish with sliced birds eye chili if desired.
Use can use store bought roasted, salted peanuts, instead of frying your own peanuts.
Dried anchovies you’ll find in Asian supermarkets. Fry in hot flavourless oil for a few minutes, until crisp, drain on kitchen paper, these are optional to the recipe, they will add a saltiness and crunch. I warn you though, they do smell a teeny tiny bit when frying! :)
This is a light, fresh and vibrant salad which you can serve as a starter that will impress, a side dish to your main course or add some extra ingredients like grilled halloumi, butterbeans, pomegranate… to turn it into more of a main meal. With the extra unusual flavours brought through the seeds, herbs and freshness of ingredients it’s a salad that will tantalise your taste buds without being heavy or overpowering.
It seems we know little about what’s in the pre-packaged food that we buy, so making your own food from scratch just makes perfect sense. Once you have the seed mix this salad will take you minutes. That initial time investment to get the ingredients and toast the seeds, may seem like a hassle but you’ll be rewarded by being able to simply grab your jar of seeds and add pizazz to simple salads and dishes. Once you have these ingredients and start building your dry store it’s easy to throw together more adventurous dishes without much trouble.
The oil I used to dress the salad and fry the seeds is avocado oil.
Avocado oil is pressed from the fruit of the avocado, the less refined, virgin oil, which I’m using has the flavour of avocado with you might say grassy tones. It’s great for making dressings, especially added to avocado for extra avo flavour, and is perfect for healthy cooking as it has an unusually high smoking point.
Avocado has long been pressed to use the oil for cosmetic purposes; high in Vitamin E it has great regenerative and moisturising properties. With the well known role vitamin E plays in aiding skin appearance seems it is logical to speculate that a healthy oil diet containing this vitamin will assist in having a good complexion! A great bonus :).
It is also high in monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease, as well as enhancing the absorption of carotenoids, which have vitamin A activity, antioxidants and other nutrients.
So, in the dressing alone you’re doing well. Not to mention the health properties of the various seeds, herbs and leaves. I suggest you give it a try!
Herb and Fragrant Seed Salad
20g Thai basil, picked
20g Coriander, picked
10g Parsley, picked
4 radishes sliced into thin rounds
50g Young Pecorino, Shaved
Salt and Pepper
Splash of avocado oil, Squeeze of Lemon Juice, to taste
Handful fresh Curry Leaves
1 tsp Nigella Seeds (Onions Seeds)
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp Fennel Seeds
2tsp Poppy seeds
200g sunflower seeds
200g pumpkin seeds
1 tsp maldon sea salt
2 tablespoon avocado oil
Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan. Add the curry leaves, fry until aromatic, then add the fennel, nigella, and mustard and poppy seeds, fry until they start to pop, shaking the pan around a little. Add the sunflower and pumpkin seeds and toast until they’re golden. Keep shaking the pan so the seeds are toasted evenly.
Immediately remove from the seeds from the pan and drain on some kitchen paper. Set aside to cool, use a couple of tablespoons for you salad and store the rest in a jar for future use! *
*Toasted seed recipe adapted from Anna Hansen’s recipe in ‘Coco’, Phaidon
Mix the salad ingredients together adding dressing to taste and enjoy….
Aaah halva, my favourite childhood sweet, I’ve never had a big sweet tooth but give me a tub of halva and there’d be nothing left.
I’ve mentioned before my love of all things sesame, especially tahini.. mmmmm.. Previous tahini posts date a while back, tahinopita the unforgettable halva cake from Cyprus. Tahini makes so many things taste amazing, chickpeas being one of them (aka houmous).
So halva in ice cream makes perfect sense! I know it’s not quite ice cream season yet, but you can eat this indoors with the heating on and you’ll be fine. It came about as I was rooting around for something to make with some spare time, knowing I have been neglecting my beloved blog. Then in it came to me, I found a pot of halva buried in my cupboard, brought to me personally all the way from Cyprus by my dear mum.
I have cream, milk and eggs., sugar, tahini, and some other bits and bobs. Yay! At last I’m making halva ice cream!.
.. And then eating too much of it when it keeps melting as I try to photograph it at 9am.. oops.
Ps .. if you attempt this.. freeze the bowl! (silly me.. I should know better)
Halve Ice Cream
300ml double cream
300ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
100g halva, cut into a small dice
Black Caramel Sesame Snap
75g black sesame seeds
25g roasted pistachio, warm still
a few edible dried rose petals
Weigh out the sugar and whisk with the egg yolks in a large bowl until thick and pale, set aside.
Halve the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds into a saucepan with the milk and cream, heat until just before boiling. Immediately pour out half the mix into the yolk mix whisking continuously to combine. Then pour the mixture back into the pan, on a medium heat, stirring continuously for about ten minutes until the mixtures thickens into a custard consistency, a crème anglais.
Have a bowl of ice ready with a clean bowl set in it. Once the custard is thick, this is the tricky part, if you over cook it will start to curdle, so take it off as soon as you think it’s ready. Pour the custard into the bowl, whisk in the tahini. After about 20 minutes pour the custard into a suitable container, lay a piece of cling film over the custard to stop a film forming. Cool completely in the fridge.
Use an ice cream machine to churn your ice cream until it is semi set, it should be very thick and creamy, stir through the halva and place in a pre frozen container and freeze. When you’re ready to serve remove from the freezer 10 minutes prier to soften up a little.
For the caramel snaps, heat a pan on medium heat. Add a little sugar to the pan, once that starts to melt keep adding sugar slowly, scraping down the edges of the until you have a deep golden caramel, add the honey, this will bubble, keep stirring and add the sesame seeds and pistachio, stir until you have a deep caramel colour.
Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and spread blobs of caramel to your size and liking, this will set quickly so you’ll need to be fast, sprinkle over the rose petals. Allow to cool, and careful not to touch the sugar if is very hot and will stick to you and burn!! Ouch.
Curry Leaves are my herb pick of the month. Especially after returning from the most amazing trip, and culinary adventure to Indonesia. Here we were spoilt rotten by Mem’s family being pampered and eating the best food for almost a whole month! We came back with a suitcase of treasures and ingredients. Two items I’m so glad we have with us to fight off Indonesian eating withdrawal complaints; a delicious jar of sambal (not like the jarred stuff you buy here), and the most amazing shredded dried fish ‘gold dust’ (my title). Now these two items may not be for everyone, searing hot sambal and smelly dried fish flakes, with toasted coconut, shredded kaffir lime and chili.? Maybe not for everyone but, heaven for me :D Sprinkle this on eggs, rice and veg and you’ll/I’ll be happy.
So here I’ve tried to recreate a dish we had, with toasted coconut as well. Here it’s sweetened with honey and coconut sugar. A simple recipe but really effective and flavourful thanks to the powerful natural aroma of the curry leaves and the sweetness of the coconut.
And just so you know curry leaves, like all herbs and spices are also very good for you. So you see, flavour and health go hand in hand, yay!
Native to Indian and Sri Lankan they’re integral to these countries and a lot of South East Asian cuisine. Curry leaves work as a natural tonic within the body and are highly recommended for their medicinal purposes as well as their flavour.
A little nutritional information.. Eaten on a regular basis they can cancel the effects of free radicals released by the metabolism that are damaging to some organs, particularly the liver.
The antioxidants in curry leaves help control good and bad cholesterol levels. They help to control blood sugar levels, in turn helping to control diabetes.
The presence of antioxidants, vitamins and alkaloids in them promotes a healthy digestive system.
Extracts of curry leaves have also been shown to reduce the side effects of both chemotherapy and radiation therapy cancer treatment.
Curry leaves have high quantities of iron, phosphorous, vitamin C and vitamin and vitamin A, important in maintaining good eyesight, and lastly curry leaves, some studies have shown, help to promote weight loss..
Stir Fried Prawns with Honey Chili Coconut and Curry Leaves
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 dried Kashmiri chili, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, deseeded and quartered
20 large king prawns, de veined
80g shredded or grated fresh coconut or dried
handful curry leaves
1 tbsp coconut sugar
Heat a large frying pan and add 1tbsp of the coconut oil, add the garlic and fry stirring for 1 minute until it just begins to colour and take out straight away. Transfer to a plate or tray with kitchen roll to crisp up and drain off some excess oil.
Add another tbsp of oil to the pan and add the coconut, curry leaves, Kashmiri chillies and palm sugar. Fry this for a few minutes while it begins to brown add the honey, stirring for even browning and to stop sticking. Once the coconut is a deep golden brown and evenly coated remove from the pan into a dish.
Add more oil if needed, add the prawns to the hot pan, once they are very almost cooked add the garlic and half the coconut. Heat through, and mix well.
Transfer onto a serving dish and sprinkle the rest of the coconut on top. Serve with steamed rice, a vegetable side and sambal if you like!