February 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Northwest European, Light, Chicken liver — ros @ 1:21 pm

I need to do more storecupbioard based cooking. The results never fail to please and it’s always a good feeling to know you’re saving money. I guess I do it less than I used to because I’m spoiled by the area in which I live. Everything’s available within a five minute walk unless, of course, it’s Sunday.

Last Sunday I wandered into Waitrose on my way home and found a pack of duck liver in the bargain bin. At £1.30, I couldn’t say no. Although I’d never cooked duck liver before, I thought it fair to assume it tasted similar to chicken liver and that’s the basis I worked on when I made this.

duck liver, apple and black pudding salad

Lurking in my fridge was a bunch of parsley and a bag of rocket which, combined with some walnuts from the storecupboard and a chopped granny smith apple made a nice tart accompanimnet to the livers. I dressed this salad with extra virgin olive oil mixed with a little apple juice and brown sugar and then served it on a bed of black pudding. The potatoes were just thickly sliced and roasted until golden brown in duck fat (from the last time I had duck). The livers were simply seared until just browned on the outside.

And that was it really. No need for a recipe with something so simple, and I doubt I could remember quantities anyway. The duck livers were, as I thought, similar to chicken livers but more rich with a great texture. At that price they’re a much better choice than calf liver.

February 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 11:17 am

A few weeks ago, the very lovely Alex of Eating Leeds tagged me for this meme, the idea being that I share seven random facts about myself. So here goes….

  1. I walk 8 miles each day. 4 miles in the morning and 4 miles in the evening. It’s a chance for me to reflect on the day’s teaching, plan the next day’s lessons and work on difficult maths problems like these ones. Oh, yes, I think about food in great detail too. It also acts as a partial remedy for the next fact
  2. I am a chronic insomniac. I’ve not been given proper medication for it but I randomly discovered last year that a certain anti-allergy tablet knocks me out like a light.  I discovered this while suffering a horrible reaction to an antibiotic. The pharmacist at first suggested I might have an allergy to cheese or red wine. I nearly cried.
  3. I really, really, really want a polydactyl cat. Preferably a black one. I’ll call it Sekhmet.
  4. When I was at university I used to love being in musical theatre. I never got a main part though and was eventually driven to leave after being cast as a prostitute four years running. No one needs that kind of typecasting.
  5. I have two phobias. The first is sometimes crippling and I won’t mention it here because I’ve learnt that some people have a cruel sense of humour. The other is vertigo. 
  6. I was painfully geeky as a child. Adventure games were my life and  the number of Star Wars/Star Trek/ Babylon 5/… the list goes on …..lines I could quote was just embarrassing. Fortunately I’m now over that although a lot of Red Dwarf has persisted in my memory.
  7. When I was thirteen years old I was convinced that I would neither get married nor have children. In fact, I was so sure of this that I made a bet with my best friend of the time that if I was wrong my children would be slaves to her! If I was right she would give me 1 million pounds. The bet takes effect at age 35… and to be honest my feelings haven’t changed much…. so, Sun-Hee, you’ve got 7 years before you owe me that million. ;)  

In theory I’m supposed to tag seven people to do this now but as I’m usually the last to get round to memes, I’d probably just end up tagging someone who’s already done it. So I’ll say, let me know if you haven’t done this meme and want to be tagged and I’ll link to you.


February 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Malay/Indonesian — ros @ 2:44 pm

This all began with a curry. A curry that was neither heavily spiced nor very hot. A curry that didn’t come from India or Thailand and that contained neither huge amounts of cumin nor coriander nor curry leaves. This curry made me look at it and say out loud, “What the hell makes this a curry?”

Malaysian Fish Curry

Goon, who as usual wasn’t interested in probing the definitions of various food types, looked at me suspiciously and said “Well, you make curry at least once a fortnight. You should know!”

But in spite of being brought up on curry, I didn’t know. This bothered me. After a short spree of looking through various dictionary definions, the vast majority of which were about grooming horses, I found the origins of the word curry. It is the Dravidian (that’s classical Tamil) word for ‘vegetable in sauce’. 

I think of all the curries I’ve made, possibly only a quarter involve vegetables in sauce. Have I been a terrible curry cook all this time?

I like to think not. I imagine what happened was that European settlers in India, who probably weren’t too keen on the whole veggie lifestyle, took the word they thought meant ‘generic vegetable stew’, turned it into the word that meant ‘generic stew with anything’ and expanded it  to mean ‘generic anything with spice that has an origins in Asia’**.

It’s an exceptionally wide definition and as I looked through the list of curries I’ve made in my short cooking life, I can see that even they are remarkably varied. There’s everything from the hot and pungent vindaloo to the delicate monkfish curry I made last night.

This dish was so delicate that it needed an accompaniment with kick so I made a sambal to go with it. A sambal is another thing that is hard to define. In short it is a side dish made with chilli or a hot pepper. In Sri Lanka the most popular ones seemed to be seeni sambal, (sweet onions with chilli) or pol sambal which is a bright orange dish made with dessicated coconut and chilli. The sambal I opted for was of Malaysian origin (to match the fish dish) and was made of pineapple and thinly sliced cucumber in a dressing of lime, shrimp paste and pounded red chilli. 

Sambal Nanas


Malaysian Fish Curry with Sambal Nanas (for two generous portions)

  • 400g monkfish fillet (or other firm white fish), cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped 
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 red and two green chillies, deseeded and chopped
  • A level tablespoon of flaked almonds, roughly crushed
  • 2 lemongras staks, outer leaves removed, trimmed
  • 3 heaped tablespooons dessicated coconut
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • 400g can coconut milk
  • 100ml unherbed fish stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chives or spring onion to garnish
  • Plain boiled basmati rice to serve

For the Sambal

  • 4 pineapple rings, chopped into small pieces.
  • 1 quarter cucumber, sliced into short thin strips
  • 1  teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 20g dried shrimp
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • brown sugar to taste


To make the sambal, use a food processor to blitz the dried shrimp, chilli, lime juice and shrimp paste. to pound the chilli and dried shrimp. REmove the mixture from the processor and mix well with the pineapple and cucumber slices. Add sugar and more lime juice to taste. Set aside while you prepare the curry.

  1. Brush a medium saucepan with vegetable oil. Stir fry the dessicated coconut gently until it is a uniform golden brown. Scrape into a food processor and process to a smooth oily paste. I needed a touch of the coconut milk to help it alon.
  2. Scrape the processed coconut into a bowl and rinse out the food processer.
  3. Chop the lower halves of the lemon grass stalks roughly. Place the chopped lemongrass in the food processor with the onion, garlic, ginger, almond and three quarters of the chilli. Blitz to a smooth paste.
  4. Brown the monkfish pieces briefly, remove from the saucepan .
  5. Add the garlic paste to the pan and cook for afew minutes. Don’t let it brown. Then add the turmeric, coconut milk, remaining lemongrass and stock. Allow to reduce by half but don’t turn the heat up too high because coconut milk may curdle.
  6. Return the fish to the pan with the dessicated coconut paste. Stir well and allow the fish to cook through (this should take about 5 minutes over a low/medium heat).
  7. Taste, adjust seasoning and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining chillies and the chives. Serve with plain boiled rice.


*The corruption of words reminds me of ‘fish bisteck’. This is a Sri Lankan recipe my Dad used to try to impress me with when I was a teenager. The story goes that this was inspired by beef steak made by European settlers. Meat went off quickly in the hot weather, so beef steak was heavily spiced to disguise any gamey flavours. The locals picked up the idea and used the heavy spicing as a coating for fish  (Buddhists aren’t big on eating beef). Beef steak –> bisteck–> fish bisteck 

From the one or two encounters I had with fish bisteck I can promise that it was grim.  



February 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Japanese, Malay/Indonesian — ros @ 4:39 pm

Well, maybe not, but this is as close as I’m likely to get.

So here we have some beef fillet steak, seared until just cooked on the outside as an attempt at beef sashimi, a hot peanut dipping sauce, tangy mango and papaya salad with lots of lime and a soothing contrast of coconut rice.

beef sashimi, coconut rice, peanut sauce mango and papaya salad

Many of the best meals I have made have come from absolute necessity. The realisation that you have a couple of pounds left in your bank account and only a few storecupboard staples can work wonders for your cooking inspiration. It was a similar mindset I had when creating the meal above.

No, I’m not for a second pretending that anything in the meal pictured above is a budget item but, at the end of a particularly long and tiring week, they were almost all sitting in my fridge and the fillet steak in particular needed to be used fast.

So how did I come to have some ’spare’ fillet steak sitting in my fridge. Exhaustion, that’s how.

Parents’ evenings are always tiring. The parents’ evening of the upper sixth year is the last one before the kids sit their A2 exams that determine which university, if any, they can attend. When you teach BOTH bottom sets in a subject like mathematics, you know you’re in for a long evening that will involve dealing with some emotionally fruaght parents.

In a school like mine, you can be sure that not even the bottom set kids are going to fail their A2 maths. However they are mostly B and C grade candidates trying to get into some very good universities to read subjects like medicine and engineering. They REALLY need As  and Bs. Their parents by this point are getting more than a little anxious about their child’s future and in particular their apparently incurable inability to do any work. 

I actually had one parent, scratching his head and looking perplexed saying, “Well he’s never done any work. He’s not going to start now but he needs an A in maths. So how do we make sure he gets it?

Ummm…… tricky one…… getting me to dress like a boy and sit his exam might work but unfortunately that’s called fraud.

Anyway, after three and a half hours of trying to console around 20 pairs of very worried parents,  I left, just caught Sainsbury before it shut and grabbed some fillet steak. Then I got home and passed out on my sofa before I even thought about what I was going to do with it.

A few days later, the steak needed to be used. Fortunately I had a little more time on my hands so I made up a dish inspired by a salad I’d had at my favourite local Thai restaurant which conveniently used up some of the exotic fruit my parents sporadically give me.

 Beef ‘Sashimi’ with Mango and Papaya Salad, Coconut Rice and Peanut Dipping Sauce

Quantities for One Person

For the Beef

  • 150-200g filet steak in one piece
  • A little vegetable oil or groundnut oil
  • Salt and pepper

Rub the steak with the oil so it is is just coated. Season with salt and pepper and sear over a high heat for 45s per side or until it is just cooked on the outside. Wrap in foil and leave to rest.

For the Rice

  • 2 handfuls of basmati rice
  • half a can of coconut milk (keep the rest handy in case you need some extra
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water. Bring the coconut milk to a boil, stir through the rice  with a teaspoon of salt and bring back to a gentle bubble. Stir frequently until the rice is cooked (about 8 minutes) - test a grain to see if it is cooked. Drain off any excess coconut milk and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

For the Peanut Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted peanut butter
  • 1 chopped red chilli, deseeded
  • a quarter can of coconut milk
  • half a tablespoon chopped coriander leaf
  • fish sauce- just a little

Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat through for a few minutes until the peanut butter thickens the sauce. Taste and season.

For the Salad

  • half a ripe mango, peeled and thinly sliced
  • half an under-ripe (green) papaya, peeled, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • a few drops of fish sauce
  • half a teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, pasted
  • 1 small green chilli, deeeded and finely chopped
  • finely diced red onion- mi just used a heaped tablespoonful and kept the rest to use another time.
  • a tablespoon of coriander leaves

Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chilli and garlic paste. Toss this through the rest of the ingredients. 

Slice the beef fillet thinly and serve with the accompaniments.

February 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mexican — ros @ 12:46 pm

It’s 8am and I’m awake even though I’m not working today! It’s a miracle!

my window this morning

Well, actually it’s more of an accident. London woke to around 4 inches of snow this morning which meant, of course, that nothing worked. Buses and tubes all stopped running. Schools closed. My head of department rang me just as I was leaving the house to tell me I could go back to bed. Sadly, by then, I’d already consumed a two very strong cups of coffee so sleep wasn’t really an option.

Generally I don’t like the snow. I detest being housebound and already the boredom of being stuck inside has resulted in me scoffing most of a big block of cheese, several slices of toast and a significant amount of a giant Hotel Chocolat slab. But then again, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to teaching the Lower Sixth a lesson on data representation. At least now I can put that topic off for another few days and can blog and play the very silly facebook game that I seem to have become addicted to. Anyone want to be my hunting buddy? No, I thought not.

Another first for me was this bottle of Resposada Tequila I bought over the weekend to use in an interesting looking dish from my Mexican recipe book.

resposada tequila

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Any excuse,’ but please note that I have refrained from drinking more than one double shot over the whole of Saturday and Sunday.

This tequila has bas a slightly smoky, woody taste from being aged in oak casks. It is rounder and fuller than standard tequila but still works best when paired with citrus. It was this fullness of flavour that as called for in the recipe for salmon with avocado and tequila cream sauce. 

Salmon with Avocado and Tequila Cream Sauce 

salmon with tequila sauce

Quantities for 2 people  

  • 2 salmon steaks about 180g each
  • a little vegetable oil for frying
  •  a touch of flour to dust the salmon skin (optional)
  • 1 small, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced into thin strips
  • half a small onion, very finely diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, cut in half and deseeded
  •  zest and juice of half a lime
  • 150ml fish stock
  • a splash of single cream
  • salt and pepper 
  • strips of green pepper and chopped fresh parsley to garnish
  1. Put the halved jalapenos, skin side up under a medium/high grill. When the skin is blistered and charred, turn off the heat and allow to cool. Peel the skin off and chop the flesh finely. 
  2. Sweat the onions gently in some butter or vegetable oil.
  3. Add the fish stock and bring to a gentle bubble.
  4. When the stock has reduced by one half, stir in the cream, lime zest and jalapeno and continue to bubble until it has thickened.
  5. Brush the salmon with a little oil and pan fry skin side down until golden brown. Dust a little flour and salt onto the skin side (if it has skin) then turn over and fry until the skin is crispy and golden.
  6. Stir the tequila  and lime juice into the sauce, season to taste and warm through for a minute ior two.
  7. Pour the sauce onto the centre of a large serving plate. Arrange the avocado and salmon on top, then garnish with the green pepper and chopped parsley. This meal worked well with sides of fried potatoes and roasted red peppers dressed in olive oil.


I think salmon is too often served with bland flavours. It has a farily robust flavour, especially if it’s wild, and it is a welcome change to pair it up with a stronger sauces like this one. The jalapeno and tequila played equal parts in the flavour of this sauce and the lime gave it a light and fresh aftertaste. It would suit a white meat like chicken very well too.

New potatoes, cubed, par boiled then fried in olive oil made an excellent accompaniment to this. We also had roasted sweet red peppers dressed in a little olive oi.