No, I am not heading off to South East Asia any time soon. I have, however, been making a lot of Asian inspired food this summer. It's hot, it's sticky, we're all sweating and I do not feel like slaving away in front of a stove or oven to make dinner. My go to of late has been quick, easy and delicious without much effort. I love the flavours of South East Asia. Hot, sour, umami, fragrant and fresh all in one mouthful. If you sweat its from the heat of the chilli and you're instantly refreshed by the flavours of crisp mint, lemon grass and spring onions. Another bonus is most of the recipes I have been making take minutes to throw together.
A favourite in our house in Pho (pronounced fuh). I love the lightness of this dish, but it is so incredibly comforting and nourishing that it can be eaten in the heat of summer or the depths of winter. The flavours are full and savoury, bright and vibrant. You can find a number of recipes online for Pho and when made from scratch you may think I am mad for suggesting this is an easy fix. BUT, if you know me and have been following our blog or Instagram page for some time, you will know I am forever making stock and stashing it in the freezer for a rainy day. Although not rainy at the moment, pre-made stock makes this process a lot easier. Traditionally Pho is made with thinly sliced beef that cooks in the broth when served but this is a variation on the theme using chicken.
Nix's Chicken Pho
1.5 - 2 Litres clarified chicken stock (pre-made using roasted bones or the carcass of a roast chicken)
1 Thumb size knob of ginger, peeled
2 Whole cinnamon sticks
6 Star anise
6 Whole Cloves
1 Cardamom pod
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)
2 Tbsp Light Soya Sauce
Salt to taste
3 Chicken breasts, poached in a little bit of plain chicken stock and shredded
Flat rice noodles, cooked and refreshed in cold water as per pack instructions, 1 nest per person
Shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and finely sliced
6 Spring onions, washed and finely sliced
1 Cup picked fresh mint and Thai basil leaves
2 Red chillis finely sliced
1 1/2 Cups bean sprouts,
1 Lime quartered
Freshly ground black pepper
Lightly toast the dry spices in a pan for 1 minute. Set a large pot on the stove on a medium heat and add the chicken stock, toasted spices, ginger, fish sauce and soy sauce. Bring to the boil and then lower the temperature. Allow to simmer for 20 - 30 minutes to infuse the flavours. Do a taster and adjust the seasoning, soy and fish sauce to your palate.
In your serving bowls portion out the cooked noodles, shredded chicken and shiitake. Strain the stock, removing the spices and then portion between the bowls over the noodles and chicken. Serve straight away with the spring onions, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, chilli, black pepper and lime on the side.
Each person can adjust the seasoning and condiments as they like. I also leave a bottle sriracha on the side if anyone wants to add an extra kick of heat to their meal.
Simple, tasty, heart warming and refreshing.
Picture credits to @lelencjud my fabulous photographer friend
Finally, spring has arrived! For how long we know not. But as the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines. Right? It's been amazing walking around London this week. People are smiling, mostly. Tourists are out in full force. The pubs are spilling onto the pavements, quite literally, and when walking home you can smell charcoal fires burning in preparation for the ritual sacrifice to the sun God.
We always enjoy a barbecue in our house but late finishes as work, gym, swimming etc. all get in the way and then you're only eating at 10pm. I was looking for something simple last night for dinner that included lots of vegetables, wasn't too warming and that wasn't going to take a lot of prep or cooking time. I love a "Chinese" take away as much as anyone else but I hate paying for more sauce than substance. I'm also very picky when it comes to take away. I check food standards agency ratings before I order any thing from anyone. Nothing less than a 4 out of 5 will do. We have a 5 star rated take away not to far from us but I didn't feel like spending money on them last night. So I threw the back doors wide open, let the sun and the breeze stream in and set to making my own version of sweet and sour chicken.
The great thing about this recipe is that it honestly takes 15 minutes! I didn't use chicken I used turkey and I play around with the sauce until it tastes right but have given more exact measurements below. This is so quick and easy and it tastes delicious too. Its the world's easiest fake-away.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 Tin pineapple in juice, chopped
150 g Tomato ketchup; I use the low salt, reduced sugar one
50 g Malt vinegar
50 g brown sugar
1 Tbsp Light soy sauce
Pepper to taste
4 Spring onions finely sliced for garnish
Put all the ingredients into a pot, except the spring onions and simmer for 5 minutes on a medium heat.
Turkey Stir Fry - Serves 2 - 3
1 Tbsp plain flour
1 Tbsp Chinese 5 spice
1/2 tsp Cooking salt
1 tsp Sesame oil
500 g Turkey, quick cook steaks, roughly chopped. You can use chicken thigh or breast if you prefer
2 Green or red peppers deseeded and roughly chopped
2 Red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 Carrots, peeled and sliced
2 Red or green chillis, deseeded and sliced
150 g Asparagus spears, washed and roughly chopped (use any veg you like, including mange tout, sugar snap, cabbage, broccoli, baby corn, go wild)
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
4 Nests cooked egg noodles refreshed in cold water or 2 packs of "Quick to Cook" noodles from your favourite grocery store.
It can be a fully vegetarian meal if you prefer, just add more vegetables or tofu instead of the turkey or chicken.
Mix the flour, 5 spice and salt together in a bowl. Coat the turkey in the seasoned flour and set aside. Heat a large pan or wok on a high heat, add a generous splash of rapeseed oil, sesame oil and the turkey to the wok. Cook until golden brown. Remove from the wok and set aside.
Add the vegetables to the pan and toss until hot and slightly softened. I like crunchy vegetables so don't over do it, about 3 - 4 minutes should be sufficient. Toss the noodles in with the vegetables and 1 Tbsp of light soy sauce for some extra flavour, until heated through. Add the cooked turkey and toss until combined.
Remove from the heat. Dish into bowls, pour over your fake-away sweet and sour sauce and garnish with the chopped spring onions. I like to throw a couple of prawn crackers on the side too just for a textural element. Inhale!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. I think it is perfect for warmer weather and for sharing. I love the colours, the flavours and of course the ease of it. Much quicker than waiting for the take-away to arrive too. Oh and don't forget to have a long cold gin and tonic or cocktail of your choice to see the long evening in.
Novinophobia - The fear of running out of wine