29 January 2012

SRKitchen on tour - a Thai banquet

The menu
From David Thompson's Thai Food cookbook

Sour orange curry of trout and vegetables
Red curry of fish and bamboo shoots
Marinated prawn salad with grated coconut
Egg nets with prawns
Pickled vegetables

Passionfruit and mango jelly with vanilla and elderflower ice cream

Photo by the SRKitchen team
It was so damn exciting yesterday getting back in The Self-Raising Kitchen to prepare a feast for friends, but 'on location'. Some of you may remember my first on tour feast at 'Dupree's' house. As I had such a ball doing the first one - despite the challenge of a miniature wooden spoon and no kitchen scales - I asked a very dear friend of mine, who just built a new house with a VERY snazzy new kitchen, if I could do another SRKitchen on tour. She kindly accepted with a WOOP! 

I would like to thank Anita and Leigh for hosting this event with such enthusiasm, excitement and support. It was a fabulous evening with friends, plenty of food and a great deal of wine. Your kitchen rocks, especially with a rangehood that works AND a gas stove. Two things I miss very much in my own little kitchen.

Now my challenge for most of my cooking adventures with friends, is that I generally have never cooked the item before. I'm mad, I do realise. And even my father (ex-chef) laughs at me whenever I tell him what delicacies I'm making my friends trial and that I've never cooked before. Don't worry, he often gets to be a guinea pig for my cooking adventures, too.

But for this feast I had at least made the dessert previously and the pickled vegetables. So it was only four other dishes I needed to conquer. 

Thai banquet hosted by Anita & Leigh
For me the challenge was in making the egg nets. They sound odd don't they? But they ended up being the hit of the evening.

Thanks to David Thompson's detailed instructions in his amazing book Thai Food, every dish is possible to the novice Thai cook with a little patience and commitment. Including egg nets.

Egg nets with prawns

Egg Nets by David Thompson

3 eggs
oil for frying
3 coriander roots, scraped
pinch of salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled
10 white peppercorns
50g minced pork (as I had a person who does not eat meat at the feast, so I added another 50g of prawns)
100g minced uncooked prawns
2 tbls fish sauch
3 tbls palm sugar
1 tbls finely sliced lemongrass
3 red shallots, sliced
1 tbls julienned red chilli
handful of coriander leaves

Whisk the eggs lightly to combine. Do not over-beat, as this will make the eggs difficult to strain; it also incorporates to much air, which makes the eggs 'bubble' slightly on cooking, and then becomes tough. Strain the whisked eggs through a fine sieve to remove filaments and membranes, and to help break down the protein. Rest eggs overnight in a glass or plastic container, which must be scrupulously clean (they are very susceptible to absorbing other flavours). Store in fridge.

Next day, pour the eggs into a bowl wide enough for your hand, and leave to reach room temperature. Dip the tops of your fingers (up to the first joint) of one hand into the bowl, stir through the mixture, then lift your hand from the bowl. The egg mixture will dribble and drip back into the bowl. Try this a few times to become accustomed to its flow.

Half fill a wok with oil and heat it up to medium, then maintain this temperature over a low flame. Now dip your hand into the egg mixture and quickly wave across the wok, so that the egg drizzles into the oil. Move your hand backwards and forwards, then from side to side, to form the net. Do not move too quickly, or the strands will be to thin to form a net and too brittle to fold when cooked and cooled. It will be necessary to re-dip your hand into the egg mixture several times to form sufficient strands to make a net.

SRKitchen tip - the egg first sinks to the bottom and then floats to the top to start frying. I had to deep my hand many times to form the net so don't be conservative with your mixture.

Make egg nets by placing hand in bowl

Make egg nets by allowing the egg mixture
 to dribble into hot oil.
Watch the temperature: if the oil is too hot, the eggs cook too quickly and the nets become brown and brittle. If the oil is too cool, then the net becomes sodden with the oil. Remove net and drain on greaseproof paper. repeat until all the mixture is used (normally 1 egg makes 2 nets). Cool. The nets can be made several hours in advance.

Using a pestle and mortar, pound coriander roots, salt, garlic and peppercorns into a paste. Heat oil in a pan or wok and fry paste until fragrant and golden. Add pork and, after a minute or so, the minced prawns (as I only used prawns I just added the prawns), stirring regularly to prevent clumping. Season with fish sauce and palm sugar, and set aside. When cool, mix with lemongrass, shallots, chilli and coriander.

SRKitchen tip - when you add the fish sauce and palm sugar, keep cooking until you get a delightfully thick sauce type consistency. You don't want a lot of liquid at this point.

Lay out one net. Spread some of the mixture on the lower third of the net. Roll the net, gathering in its ends to form a cigar. Repeat with the remaining nets and mixture. On serving, slice into pieces with a sharp knife.

-recipe end-

The rest of the feast:

Pickled vegetables - Chinese radish,
Chinese cabbage and snake beans.

Marinated prawn salad with grated coconut

Red curry of fish and bamboo shoots

Sour orange curry of trout and vegetables
To finish the feast, something a little lighter:
Passionfruit and mango jelly with vanilla
and elderflower ice cream.

If you would like me to post any of the above dishes, please leave a comment below and I'll happily provide the recipe in my next post.

Happy cooking adventures!

15 January 2012

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk

Last night my beloved and I had a few of our friends over to catch up over food and a few drinks after Christmas/New Year travels. It was a beautifully cool evening in Brisbane, and although rain was predicted, the heavens held off and gave us an unnaturally cool summer evening.

As I went to Labrador -- a beautiful calm water beach on the Gold Coast -- on Friday with my sister, nieces and parents, where we had a swim, played in the playground, had a BBQ lunch, enjoyed a (much needed) coffee, we then had to hit the local fish market, Charis Seafoods. This place is fantastic with all the seafood looking incredibly fresh and irresistible; I could barely contain my excitement. All of us walked away with something: red emperor fillets for my sister, john dory fillets and calamari tubes for my father, and green prawns, swordfish fillets and squid for myself.

With this kind of exceptional seafood at my fingertips, my menu for Saturday night was decided: seafood. And as I was hankering for an Asian fish curry, dinner was decided.

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk
from Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk
(photo by TSRK team)
Rick's original recipe is for 4 people, which I'll include here. I doubled it for 5 people and let's just say I had practically nothing left but a little bowl full for my lunch today.

400g fish fillets. I used swordfish, Rick suggests monkfish, john dory, barramundi, gurnard or sea bass.
250g prepared medium-sized squid
12 large raw peeled prawns
Freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
200g (8 heaped tbsp) Balinese spice paste (see below for the recipe)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn into small pieces
2 fat lemongrass stalks, halved and bruised
120ml chicken stock
250ml coconut milk

Cut fish into 3-4cm chunks. Slit the body pouches of the squid along one side, open them out flat and score the inside into a fine diamond pattern with the tip of a small, sharp knife. Cut the squid pouches length ways into strips suitable to your liking. Score the fins in the same way and cut in half, then separate the tentacles into pairs.

Put the fish, squid and peeled prawns in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the lime juice. Mix it together. Add half of the spice paste and rub it well all over the pieces of seafood.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the remaining spice paste and fry gently for 2-3 minutes until it starts to smell fragrant. Add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and stock and simmer for 1 minute.

Add the pieces of fish only to the pan and leave to cook for 1 minute, then turn them over and cook for a further minute. Add the coconut milk to the pan, together with the squid and prawns, and simmer for 2 minutes until all the seafood is just cooked. Season to taste with a little more salt (if needed, mine didn't) and lime juice to taste and serve.

TSRK tip
Although this is a Balinese dish and many Asian dishes cook seafood longer, I stick to my preference of just cooked seafood. It is a lot tenderer and seems to melt in your mouth this way. So remember, don't let this dish sit around cooking on an element as it will continue to cook in the heat of its on sauce even while it is in the bowl ready to be devoured.

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk
(photo by TSRK team)
Balinese spice paste
1.5 tsp black peppercorns
half nutmeg
25g candle nuts, macadamia nuts, cashew nuts or roasted peanuts (I used macadamia nuts)
1 tsp sesame seeds
60g shallots, roughly chopped
25g peeled ginger, roughly chopped
40g peeled galangal (or extra ginger), roughly chopped
15g peeled fresh turmeric, chopped, or 1tsp turmeric powder
3 fat lemongrass stalks, core chopped
20g garlic
2 medium-hot red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
3 red bird's eye chillies, roughly chopped
1tsp shrimp paste
1tbsp palm sugar
1tsp salt
3 vegetable oil
juice of half a lime

Put the peppercorns, nutmeg, nuts and sesame seeds into a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Tip into a mini food processor, add all the other ingredients and blend everything into a very smooth paste.

TSRK tip
Got a chilli novice coming for dinner? Simply reduce the number of chillies. I included 1 red chilli and 1 bird's eye in my paste. My chilli novice was very happy with the heat of the dish. However, if I was cooking this for my mother I would probably only include 1 chilli and take out the seeds. She's pathetic with hot food.

12 January 2012

Life, love and change

It has been a while between posts! I guess the longer I didn't blog, the easier it was to continue to make excuses not to.

"So what has happened in the last ten months?", I hear you ask.

Well, I bought a house with my beloved.

Our 1930s Queensland home

We then decided to fill our house with two beautiful little fur babies.

The odd couple: Pipsqueak the Dachshund
and Barney the Labrador

After toilet training, picking up after distroyed books/glasses/bed sheets/bras, a few housing renovations, changing jobs (for us both), we finally finished the year off with an 'I do'.

My beloved and I on the most amazing day of my life
(photo: Sue Kime photograhy)

What an incredible year!

So where's the cooking among all of this domestic bliss? It has continued with gusto, as seen here in my Christmas Eve spread for my beloved's family.

Christmas Eve feast including a corn and
mediterranean salad, NZ whole snapper with a
tomato and paprika dressing, char-grilled chicken
with crunchy roast potatoes.

I am looking forward to 2012 to have a little less change than last, and returning to my love of food and writing.

Will I succeed in this resolution?