Friday, December 09, 2016

Salted Cod And Cashew Nut Curry

This recipe was partly inspired by Cambodia's national dish, amok - river fish cooked with mild spices and coconut. Amok varies enormously from home to home over there. Most resemble a sort of runny, yellow curry, but the supposedly authentic ones are steamed in banana leaves and, with the addition of beaten egg, come out like souffles. So chaotic is the dish, you could say it runs ... oh, never mind.

Salted fish is also an important ingredient for the Khmers, and works well in this curry. As for the cashew nuts, you can pick them off the trees over there. Remember to only add salt at the end, if necessary, as it is difficult to estimate how salty the fish is and how much soaking it will need. Obviously the saltier you like it, the less soaking it needs.

300g salt cod or pollack, skinless and boneless
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves
4 green cardamon pods
4 cloves
2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsps olive oil
6 red chillies, fewer if you don't like heat
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 large yellow or orange pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
120g tinned tomatoes, chopped
400ml coconut milk
20 cashew nuts

Soak the salted fish overnight in a saucepan full of cold water. Change the water a couple of times. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and add the chopped onion. Stir and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until reduced heavily in size. Add the diced pepper, bay leaf and garlic and cook for another few minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the cardamon, cumin, turmeric, coriander, sugar and vinegar. Stir for a minute, adding a splash of water if the spices start to catch. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk.

Cover the pressure cooker, bring up to pressure, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring half way through. Then add the fish, cut into inch-wide pieces, cashew nuts and whole red chillies. Stir well and cover the pressure cooker again. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.

Serve with fresh coriander, salad and boiled rice.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Vintage Cheddar And Parmesan Leeks

If you're lucky enough to have a garden, you may be fortunate enough to pull a couple of fat leeks out of the ground for this delicious recipe, as they're in peak condition at this time of year. If not, you'll just have to rely on the local bearded grocer like me.

It goes very well with roast pork and crackling as I knocked up for a meal last Sunday, with apple sauce, steamed kale, roast spuds and other trimmings. In fact, it's not often that a side dish takes centre stage, but it certainly gave the pork leg a run for its money, and if anything was almost as popular as the crackling. It doesn't require a lot of cheese, but the cheddar you use should be as full-flavoured and vintage as you can find.

2 large leeks
25g butter
25g plain white flour
350ml milk
250ml water
2 tsps wholegrain mustard
Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and white pepper
3 tbsps breadcrumbs
50g vintage cheddar, grated
25g parmesan, grated
2 tsps fish sauce

Cut the leeks lengthways into four (keeping them attached at the root) then wash well in a tub of water to remove any grit and mud. Slice the leeks into inch-wide pieces. Boil 250ml of water in a saucepan, add a little salt, and then the leeks.

Stir well, then cover the pot over a medium heat for 30 seconds. Stir again, then cover for another 30 seconds. Do this for a total of five minutes - the leeks should have reduced in size by about a half. Remove the leeks and remaining water (which will have turned a pale green).

In the same (dry) pan, melt the butter and then add the flour. Take off the heat, and stir well with a wooden spoon to make a blonde paste (roux). Return to the heat and add the still-hot liquor from the leeks. Once the water is absorbed, add the milk, a little at a time, using a whisk to break down the lumps.

Once you have a thick sauce, add the mustard and fish sauce. Then add the grated cheese, stirring until you have a smooth sauce again. Check the seasoning, adding salt and white pepper to taste.

Add the leeks to the sauce and simmer for two minutes. Transfer to an oven dish, top with breadcrumbs and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, then cook in a pre-heated oven at 170C for 20-30 minutes until the top if golden.