Ben Laurie blathering

23 Jul 2015

Vietnamese Style Sweet and Sour Lamb

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 7:48

Disclaimer: I have almost no experience cooking Vietnamese, this is just a distillation of various recipes I’ve only read.

Lamb steak (or other meat: just did this with rib-eye steak, was delicious)
Crushed chilli (or other form of chilli)
Soy sauce
Fish sauce

First cook the lamb (or other) steak until browned outside but rare inside. Set aside and slice into thin slices during the remaining cooking.

Slice onions then fry gently in oil until transparent. Add sugar (quite a lot – for two I use a couple of tablespoons at least), garlic, chilli and fry until the sugar is lightly caramelised. Throw in equal parts of vinegar, soy and fish sauce (roughly speaking, you want a little more total liquid than you had sugar), stir in and bring to the boil. Cook until slightly thickened. Add the sliced meat and stir-fry until cooked to your liking.

Serve with boiled rice and something green.

14 May 2015

Duck with Orange and Fennel

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 17:28

Duck breasts
Soy sauce
Fennel bulbs

Sous vide the duck breasts with a bit of honey and salt at around 56C for about an hour to 90 minutes (sorry, but sous vide really is the path to tender duck breasts – if you can’t sous vide, then cook them however you like, to rare or medium rare). Let them cool down a little, then fry for a few minutes on each side to brown (if you’ve done the sous vide thing).

Let them rest for 5-10 minutes, slice into 1/4″ slices.

Thinly slice the fennel.

Peel the orange and break the segments into two or three chunks each.

Quickly stirfry the duck breasts for just a short while – 30 seconds or so. Add soy and honey. Throw in the orange chunks and sliced fennel and stirfry until the fennel has wilted slightly and the orange is warm (and the duck is still somewhat rare, so start with pretty rare duck!).

And then you’re done.

I suspect this would be improved with some sesame seeds stirfried just before the duck breasts, but I haven’t tried it yet.

8 Sep 2014

Smoked Duck Breasts

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 19:55

I’ve recently started experimenting with smoking. First experiment was lamb bacon, but that’s going to take some refining – it was good, but I’m sure it could be better. Recipe once refined.

Todays’ was smoked duck breasts.

Marinade the duck breasts for 2 days in red wine, sugar, salt, pepper and chinese five spice. Smoke (I use a ProQ Frontier) with apple wood (half a smoking box full) and lapsang souchong tea (contents of four teabags) at 125C for 3-4 hours.

8 Apr 2014

Fruity Lamb Curry

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 10:14

My younger son, Oscar, asked me to put bananas into the lamb curry I was planning to cook. Which inspired this:

Chopped onions
Diced ginger
Star anise
Diced leg of lamb
Dried apricot

Fry the onions in the ghee. Add ginger and ground spices and fry for a minute more, then add the diced lamb and brown. Add the raisins, banana (sliced), dried apricot (roughly chopped) and lemon (cut into eighths, including skin) and some yoghurt. Cook on a medium heat until the yoghurt begins to dry out, then add some more. Repeat a couple of times (I used most of a 500ml tub of greek yoghurt). Salt to taste. Eat. The lemon is surprisingly edible.

I served it with saffron rice and dal with aubergines.

31 Jan 2014

Pea Soup

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 18:54

Olive oil
Smoked bacon (I don’t know why you’d ever used unsmoked for anything)
Frozen peas
Chicken stock
Sour cream

Dice the bacon, fry in the oil ’til slightly browned. Add sliced onion and fry until sweet. Add chicken stock and frozen peas (you want a pretty high pea-to-stock ratio), boil for a few minutes. Blitz to a pretty smooth puree (longer than you think, the peas’ outer coatings are quite chewy). Season (I didn’t need salt). Serve with a dollop of sour cream in the middle.

The whole thing only takes about 15 minutes, if that.

I’m sure it’d be great with fresh peas, too. Perhaps even better. Obviously you’ll need to boil it for longer.

24 Jan 2014

Parsnip Soup

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 22:36

Very easy and very nice.

Garam Masala
Chicken stock

Dry fry the Cs (all curries are mostly made with spices that start with C … seriously), then grind them. In the meantime, or after, fry thinly sliced onions + ginger in olive oil. Once they’re slightly browned, add the spices (including garam masala) and some butter. Fry/stir for a little longer (maybe a couple of minutes). Add the diced parsnips and coat them, then add milk and chicken stock (1:2 ratio) to cover. Boil for about 30 mins, til the parsnips are somewhat soft, then blitz. You probably need some salt, too.

That gives a basic recipe. I added sliced grilled sausages.

I think shredded roast duck legs would also go well, but I haven’t tried yet.

Chilli, either fresh (which would look nice added at the end) or ground, would be good, too, but not necessary.

4 Jan 2014

Salmon Bhuna and Dry Cauliflower Curry

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 22:13

These days, I spend a fair amount of time trying to dream up low calorie dishes (no, I am not on a low calorie diet). Today I tried a new one and an old favourite, combined. Probably about 250 calories a head, given enough to fill a plate. Calculate your own calories if you care.

Anyway, the bhuna:

Fish (I wanted to use cod, but all I had was salmon)
Tinned tomato

My fish had skin on, so first I fried the skin side to crisp it, then set aside. Fry thinly sliced onions in a small amount of ghee (or if you really are counting your calories, spray some oil) until sweet. Add crushed garlic, diced ginger and ground cumin, coriander, chilli and cloves. Cook them for a minute or two then add the tinned tomatoes and some salt, mash them up, cover and simmer for a while (say 15 minutes) stirring occasionally. Add water if needed to stop it drying out. After 15 minutes put the fish on top, re-cover and let it steam (or bury it in the sauce if you prefer). Leave that going for 10 minutes or so while you cook the cauliflower…

Black mustard seeds
Black onion seeds
Lemon juice

Cut the cauliflower up into florets. Fry the ginger, mustard and onion seeds in a little ghee (or a spray of oil), stirring, until the mustard seeds start to pop pretty vigorously. Add the cauliflower (I actually had some broccoli which I added too) and stir fry for a minute or so, then add a splash of water, which will, of course, fairly quickly boil off. Keep adding water a little at a time, stir frying, until the cauliflower is cooked to your liking (al dente is good!). Add salt and lemon juice (go easy, I used half a lemon for two people generously served). Stir once and serve.

If you don’t care about calories, saffron rice would go well with this. We had a spoonful of yoghurt each, which went well.

21 Nov 2013

Pickled Apple

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 21:52

Apparently, it’s a thing. I made some to go with roast pork. It was nice. We had it again tonight with fried salmon, green veg with cream and saffron, and pasta. It was nice again. So, here’s the vague recipe…

The pickling juice is cider vinegar, water and sugar in a 5:5:1 ratio. For three apples (sliced into big but thin chunks), I used 400 ml each of vinegar and water, and (obviously) 80g of sugar. I added black peppercorns, coriander seed, cloves and star anise. Probably I could’ve used less liquid or more apple.

It was pretty nice with the pork after 2-3 hours. Even nicer with the salmon a day later.

That is all.

20 Jul 2013

Quick Okra Pickle

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 19:10

A friend brought me okra, which is hard to find in Wales (let me know if you know different!) and I invented this dish to go with the chicken curry I was cooking. By special request I am going to try to guess quantities, but feel free to ignore them.

1 medium onion
2 inches ginger
1 dsp ghee
300g okra
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp black onion seeds
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or fresh chilli if you have it)
2 tsp fennel seeds
100 ml white wine vinegar (other varieties should be fine)
2 tbsp sugar

Thinly slice the onion and fry it in the ghee until sweet. Add the thinly sliced ginger (I like to keep the ginger in slices rather than dicing it, but you could also dice) and the chilli flakes (or finely diced fresh chilli), mustard, onion and fennel seeds. Fry for a minute or so. Add the top-and-tailed-and-made-uniform-sizes okra and fry for a while, occasionally adding a little water so it cooks (let the water boil dry before adding more). When the okra is tender, add the vinegar and sugar, making sure the sugar dissolves and the vinegar boils. You can serve it any time from now, but I think it should at least be warm. You are supposed to eat the ginger, not pick it out.

BTW, all frying is actually stir-frying. The whole thing should only take 10 minutes or so.

11 Jun 2013

Rice Pudding

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 16:32

For almost all of my life, I have hated rice pudding. But recently my wife made some (up to now, I’ve only seen her eat it from a tin – disgusting stuff). And it was awesome. So now I keep making rice pudding.

I recently had occasion to cook it for a lot of people. Here’s the recipe.

500g pudding rice
250g demarara sugar
1l whole milk
flavourings (see below)
ground nutmeg

Flavourings: there’s probably a lot you can do, but the two I did most recently were (choose one):

a) Zest of two oranges (I like to peel them with a potato peeler and then finely slice the peel) plus ground seeds from about 20-30 cardamom pods (pods removed).

b) Zest of two limes and two lemons (as above).

Put nearly all ingredients in a flat oven dish, should be about 1.5″ deep and mix. Dust the top with nutmeg. Cook at gas mark 3 for 2 hours.

This should give you a nearly completely dried out rice pudding, with just a touch of moistness and a strong flavour. Which is how I like it.

Serve with double cream. Should feed 12 generously.

What? I didn’t say it was slimming!

10 Jan 2013

Sea Bass and Dal

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 23:07

The sea bass part of this is really easy: fry sea bass fillets in extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt for about 5 minutes skin side down, which makes it lovely and crispy, then turn over for about 30 seconds to cook it through. Obviously you do this at the end.

Dal is a more moveable feast – I used a mix of toor dal (oily, as it happens, but plain would be fine), white urad dal and red lentils – these all cook relatively quickly and end up quite soft. Fry onions in ghee, add ground cumin, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, dried red chili, star anise (I know this is non standard, but it is great in dal) and whole mustard seeds. You can play with this mix infinitely, but that’s what I used tonight. Fry the washed dal briefly in the onion/spice mix and then add water. Boil hard for about 30 mins, stirring occasionally, adding water as needed (a quite wet outcome is perfectly ok) until the dal is soft but still retains a little identity. Towards the end add chicken stock and salt.

I also did cardamom rice (take whole cardamom, beat up somewhat in a pestle and mortar and chuck into the rice/water mix at the beginning – cook the rice however you cook rice). The whole combo was lovely – crispy sea bass contrasted nicely with the soft, spicy dal, and the rice gave that slight citric edge.

12 Jun 2012

Venison and Chestnut Stew

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 14:57

Cooked this last night, it was pretty yummy.

venison (not sure what cut, we used a casserole mix from here)
red wine
chicken stock
bouquet garni
jelly (e.g. redcurrant, medlar)

Fry the chopped onion and bacon for a while. Add the venison chunks and fry until browned (note that proper recipes give you a lot of hooey about coating in flour and frying in batches – whilst I am as much a fan of the Maillard reaction as the next guy, I don’t think it is necessary to do it to every bit of meat in the whole stew, and nor can I discern an advantage in burning the flour). Unless your hob is a lot hotter than mine, what will almost certainly happen is it’ll brown a bit and then release a bunch of juices which it’ll boil in. If you want more browning, then give in to convention and fry in small batches. Anyway, once its boiled a bit, throw in some flour, stir until mixed then add wine and stock, about half and half, to cover the meat. Add thinly sliced carrot, celery and the bouquet garni at this point.

Leave to boil gently for 1 hour, then add the chestnuts (I used vacuum-packed ones). I added some crushed garlic, too, because I forgot it earlier. Add the medlar/redcurrant/whatever jelly, too (I used both of those). Boil for another hour. Eat.

I served it with herby mashed potato and leek and peas in saffron cream. Pretty damn good.

20 Apr 2012

Persian Pulled Lamb

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 10:37

I don’t usually link to existing recipes, but this was so good, I had to: We only let it marinade for one day, which seemed to work fine.

5 Apr 2012

Salmon and Peas in a Saffron Cream Sauce

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 19:42

An impromptu and fast recipe that worked really well.

olive oil
mixed herbs
salmon steak fillets
frozen peas

Put the saffron in a small amount of hot water. Get the butter and oil hot enough to bubble, add salt, pepper, mixed herbs. Shortly after, add the salmon, skin side down. Fry until the skin is crispy, then turn onto a side. Fry for a couple of minutes, turn again until all four sides are done. Throw in the frozen peas and mix with the fat. Add the saffron (and water, of course). Bring to the boil, then add cream. Bring to the boil again, season and serve. Try to keep one side of the salmon above the waterline throughout.

We had it with pasta. Start the pasta before the salmon, it really is that quick!

29 Apr 2011

Pepper-crusted Tuna

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 10:53

I came across this on my frequent travels to the US (where they tend to call it pepper-crusted ahi, or even, rather redundantly, pepper-crusted ahi tuna). I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the UK, but it is fantastically easy to cook. And delicious.

Tuna steaks (nice and fresh, so you can leave them rare)
Black peppercorns
Szechuan pepper (optional)

Crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar (or mortar and pestle if you’re American). They don’t need to be particularly finally divided, but try to at least split each one in half. Spread half the mix over one side of your tuna steaks and press it in – it sticks surprisingly well. Turn over and repeat. Then fry in hot olive oil for about 4 minutes a side (up to 8 if you’re too chicken for rare tuna, but I promise it tastes/feels much better rare). Do not keep turning them over, turn them just once. Sprinkle on some sea salt when done.

That’s it.

I often serve with plain boiled rice and pak choi.

5 Mar 2011

Chicken and Lentils

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 15:56

chicken thighs/drumsticks/whatever – skin on
green lentils (I doubt it matters much, but this is what I used)
cardamom pods
dried red chillies
diced ginger
sliced onion
chicken stock
tinned tomatoes

Grind the spices (I use a coffee grinder, but pestle and mortar is fine). Fry with the ginger in whatever oil takes your fancy (or even ghee) for a minute or so, then add the chicken pieces. Fry pretty vigorously until nicely browned, but try not to burn the spices. I try to have enough spice so the chicken all gets nicely coated and there’s some left over for the next stage…

Once the chicken is browned (but not cooked through), set aside, leaving whatever oil and spices aren’t sticking to them in the pan. Add the onions and fry until clear, then add the lentils and some water.

Some, but not all, lentils need to be cooked carefully (they contain an enzyme that ain’t so good for you) so make sure you incorporate the cooking instructions into this recipe. The green lentils I used don’t need soaking (in fact, in my experience you can generally substitute more boiling for soaking anyway), but they do need boiling hard for ten minutes, so … do that now.

Once any hard cooking needed by the lentils is over, return the chicken to the pan, add the tinned tomatoes and chicken stock – smash the tomatoes up, bring to the boil, then simmer until the lentils are done (varies according to type). Note that lentils can soak up a lot of water, so stir occasionally and add more if needed. Season to taste and serve with rice and whatever.

I expect a raita would be nice with this.

I don’t usually do quantities, but since I was asked nicely, here’s some guidance: for eight chicken thighs (enough for four people, if they’re not too greedy) I used around 200g of lentils, one tin of tomatoes and probably around a third of a cup (or more) of spices, after they’d been ground. Mostly cumin and coriander. I know it sounds like a lot, but you need a lot – and its hard to overdo them. Stock should be enough to cook the lentils, bearing in mind the liquid from the tomatoes – the aim is for a thick lentil sauce, not a soup.

22 Jan 2011

Salmon with Sticky Ginger Sauce

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 5:22

Salmon fillets (with skin)
Spring onions

Finely chop ginger and spring onions. Mix a lot of sugar with a roughly equal quantity of vinegar. Add the ginger and reduce (I always overdo this which means the sauce solidifies when it cools – try not to copy me, it’s a pain to have to keep warming it). Add the chopped spring onions at the end. You could also add chilli, but I didn’t. I expect cubed cucumber might be nice, too.

While it is reducing, fry the salmon in olive oil, quite hot so the skin browns (do the skin side first). Serve with sauce generously drizzled on it.

We had it with rice and leeks with cream (roll-cut leeks, fry gently in butter/salt/pepper, add double cream at the end).

13 Nov 2010

Chicken and Cashew

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 12:22

When I fancy a stirfry my thoughts often turn to this dish. I first learnt to cook this from Ken Hom’s excellent book, but it doesn’t bear much resemblance to his version any more. Quick and easy and delicious cold.

Chicken breast
Dark soy
Spring onions
Sesame oil

Chop the chicken. I believe the Chinese like things to all be roughly the same size, so in theory you should try and chop into cashew-nut-sized pieces. However, I typically do thin slices across the breast (by the way, if you want really thin slices then leaving frozen meat not quite defrosted is a great way to achieve it – no need to complete the defrosting after, it’ll happen in the wok). Marinade the chicken slices for 30 mins at least in diced ginger, dark soy and spring onion, finely chopped. Around here we like to use a lot of ginger but it is up to you.

While its marinading, stirfry the cashews in a little oil over a very gentle heat – burnt nut is very bitter, so keep the heat low and stir continuously – until lightly browned. Sometimes I use roasted and salted cashews, in which case there is no need to fry them, but you do need to rinse the salt off.

Then a little more oil (I use groundnut, by the way) on a high heat. Once it is smoking, throw in the chicken, which should’ve absorbed most of the marinade by now. Stirfry quickly and not for too long; the secret to really tender chicken is to stop as soon as all the meat is coloured – the pieces should be small enough that they’ll be cooked through by the time you’re done. Add the cashews and a little more dark soy and bring up to heat. Then take it off the heat, add yet more finely chopped spring onion and a generous dash of sesame oil give a final stir, and serve with plain boiled rice and a vegetable of your choice. Or a salad, even.

Nom nom. I think there might be some of this calling me from the fridge right now.

31 Aug 2010

Cod Chowder

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 5:05

Chowder isn’t exactly rocket science, but this went pretty well, so documenting it here…

I actually made this almost entirely from frozen ingredients and it was just fine. Fresh might be better.

Finely chopped leek
Smoked bacon, sliced (I used some lardons I had in the freezer)
Cubed potatoes
Chicken stock (maybe fish stock would be better, I didn’t have any) or water
Milk (about half as much as stock)
King prawns

Fry the leeks and bacon in a little butter/olive oil (I used both) until pretty soft – I didn’t crisp the bacon for a change. I think it is better for chowder not to. Add cubed potatoes and fry for a bit longer, then add chicken stock (or water or fish stock) and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes have softened, then zap half the mixture with a blender (I just did this in situ). Season (I didn’t need salt, there was enough in the bacon). Add milk, fish, prawns and bring back up to a simmer, cook for a few minutes, making sure the fish falls apart. Add cooked sweetcorn and bring back up to temperature. Finally, add some cream.

Quantities should be chosen so that the final result is good and thick.

Serve with warm, crusty bread and butter. Works as a whole meal.

12 Jul 2010

Cabbage and Peas

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 11:15

I have a vague recollection of being served this somewhere, but I can’t remember where.

Smoked bacon
Cabbage (we used sweetheart, but I don’t think it is critical, savoy would probably be even nicer)
Frozen peas
Double cream

Slice the bacon thinly, fry in a little oil until crispy (at least, that’s what I’d do, my sous-chef decided to stop sooner than that and it was fine), chop cabbage into strips, add to the bacon+fat and braise (I found I didn’t need a lid at all, but you may – and even may need to add a little water, depending on the cabbage). When the cabbage is nearly done, add the frozen peas. As soon as they defrost, a generous gloop of double cream. Add salt at some point if the bacon isn’t too salty and pepper in any case.

We ate this with roast pork belly and roast potatoes. Yummy.

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