One of the upsides of frequently cooking & eating by myself is the fact that I can put whatever I want [read: whatever is lying around] into my meal without feeling pressure to impress. Usually, my experiments work out; occasionally, they are awesome. This salad made my tastebuds sing.
This was a meal inspired by:
- an aging red grapefruit;
- frozen, made-from-scratch curry paste; and
- leftovers from Vietnamese cold rolls.
First of all, the grapefruit wasn’t that old. Maybe a month. Six weeks at most.
My curry paste was a ‘failed’ attempt at Panang curry paste. Still delicious, just not the right flavour balance – and way too yellow for Panang curry, thanks to my heavy hand with the turmeric.
Recipe #84: SE Asian-styled yellow curry paste. Originally intended to be a Panang curry paste, inspired by a cross between this Real Thai Recipes version and the Malaysian spice blend from Christine Manfield’s Spice, this is milder and incorporates fresher flavours.
You will need:
– dry ingredients
► 2 tsp cumin seeds
► 1 tsp fennel seeds
► 1 tbsp coriander seeds
► 3 tsp turmeric (ground)
► 1 tsp peppercorns
► 1 tsp salt
– wet ingredients
► 4 large red chillis, seeds removed from 3 of the chillis
► 1 birdseye chilli, with seeds
► 1 thumbsized piece of fresh ginger [or galangal, if you can get your hands on it]
► 1½ stalks of lemongrass
► 2 tbsp coriander root
► 3 cloves garlic
► 2 shallots
► 1 heaped tsp palm sugar
► 1 tbsp roasted peanuts
► 1 tsp belachan/ngapi (shrimp paste)
► 1 tbsp fish sauce
► 2 tbsp vegetable oil
Start by dry-roasting the fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds; do this by placing the seeds on a baking tray in an oven pre-heated to 150°C. Purists will tell you to roast the seeds separately; I didn’t do this, but I’m sure it would yield a superior result. Roast the seeds for around 5 minutes, when the seeds become fragrant.
Next, pummel the dry ingredients to powder. I used my Thermomix, but you could equally do this in a food processor, spice grinder, or mortar & pestle. When the dry ingredients are thoroughly tiny and blended, pulverise the wet ingredients, then mix well with the dry – and you are ready to cook [or freeze – this paste freezes really well].
I used about a third of this paste to make a beef curry with 500g of thinly sliced steak.
To make a beef curry, saute the paste in a hot pan with a little vegetable oil by itself. Once fragrant, add the meat to brown. Add about 500g of coconut milk and 200g coconut cream, then simmer over low heat until the meat is tender. Just prior to serving, tear in some basil and coriander, squeeze over some lime juice, and sprinkle with shredded kaffir lime leaves. Serve with steamed rice. Very yummy.
My leftovers from the previous evening’s Vietnamese cold rolls included:
- about half a carrot’s worth of carrot, cut into very thin strips;
- a good handful of mixed herbs – mint, basil, coriander;
- 2 rice papers, hydrated then folded;
- about a cup of hydrated bean (glass) noodles; and
- a yummy sauce I made up on the spot for Vietnamese cold rolls.
And what was this yummy sauce, I hear you ask?
Recipe #85: Yummy sauce for Vietnamese cold rolls.
► 1 kaffir lime leaf, very ridiculously finely chopped
► 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
► 1 tbsp soy sauce
► 1 tbsp fish sauce [if you’re vegetarian, just use more soy sauce]
► juice of 1 lime
► 2 tbsp mirin
► 1 birdseye chilli, cut in half
► 1 clove garlic, peeled and squashed with the back of a knife
► 3 slices ginger
Place all ingredients together in a jar and shake. Leave for about half an hour. Shake again. Serve.
Finally, here’s what I did with all of this, plus a few extra ingredients.
Recipe #86: Chicken & grapefruit glass noodle salad. Serves 1, very generously.
To replicate my experiment, you will need:
► yellow curry paste [Recipe #84, above – you will need just a small amount]
► 1 chicken breast [free range, of course. Vegetarians could substitute with tofu – just remember the shrimp paste & fish sauce in the curry paste]
► vegetable oil
► ½ carrot, cut into thin strips, then into very tiny pieces
► a good handful of mixed herbs – mint, basil, coriander [use Thai basil if you can find it]
► 1 cup of bean (glass) noodles
► 2 hydrated rice papers, rolled and cut into strips
► 1 red grapefruit, cut (or peeled) into segments
► yummy sauce for Vietnamese cold rolls [Recipe #85, above – you’ll need about half of it]
► 2 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed
Start with the chicken. Rub curry paste generously onto both sides of the chicken breast, ensuring that each side is packed to about ½-centimetre deep. Place the chicken into a medium-hot frypan with a little vegetable oil. Once the paste becomes really fragrant, swirl a generous swig of mirin around the chicken and allow it to cook with the lid on for around 5 minutes. Turn the chicken, add more mirin and cook until the sauce starts to bubble thickly. Remove the chicken and allow it to rest for a few minutes.
>If you want to, you can carve the chicken into strips and warm the strips in the thickened juices, ensuring the chicken is as coated as possible. This sauce is like a curry gravy and it’s superb.
While the chicken is cooking, combine the salad. Mix the glass noodles and rice papers with the grapefruit segments, carrot and leaves. Pour over just enough of the ‘yummy sauce for Vietnamese cold rolls’ to wet the salad, then mix with your hands to ensure an even coating.
Don’t forget to crush the peanuts! You’ll need these, along with the sauce from the frying pan, for serving.
Serve by placing the chicken over the salad, sprinkling over the crushed peanuts, then spooning over the sauce.
This could have been a meal for two if it wasn’t so fabulous. I couldn’t resist the sweet jamminess of the sauce and found myself licking every last skerrick from the pan – another perk of cooking for one.
Oh, and I loved this combination so much that I cooked it for my brother the following night [and he loved it too!].
I am tempted to make up a fresh batch of my new curry paste recipe and cook it into a jam with a goodly amount of mirin. Then I will have a homemade condiment at the ready for next time I want an easy homecooked meal from scratch.
Please, try. Enjoy.
PS. One last photo. Just because.