Ben Laurie blathering

9 Apr 2010

Stir-fried Trout and Almond

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 11:15

My son complained that he didn’t like fish and to compensate he demanded we stir-fry it. Here’s what I invented…

Trout fillets, with skin (I think we used river trout)
Spring onions
Dark soy

Cut the trout fillets into strips about 1/2″ wide. Marinade in dark soy, finely chopped ginger and spring onions and a little sugar. While it is marinading stir-fry the almonds (a little oil and a very low heat works best, don’t pause or they burn and burnt nut is very bitter). Remove the almonds, add some cornflour to the marinade, then get a little oil smoking hot. Cook the strips of trout, salvaged one at a time from the marinade, for a couple of minutes a side. Do them in batches so they crisp up nicely (especially the skin side). Once they’re all done, quickly stir fry them with the almonds and a little more soy. I resisted the temptation to throw the extra marinade into the dish at this point. Turn off the heat, mix in yet more finely chopped spring onion and a little sesame oil. As usual, no quantities, but I recommend a _lot_ of spring onions, use about half in the marinade and half at the end (I used 10 spring onions for 6 trout fillets).

Serve with rice, of course, and a vegetable (I did leeks).

24 Feb 2010

Broccoli and Tomato Stirfry

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 12:59

I’ve been using little tomatoes a lot lately, I have no idea why I’ve traditionally neglected them, they’re rather nice. Last night I needed some vegetables to go with some Thai fishcakes, and I invented this…

Tenderstem broccoli (or purple sprouting broccoli – not a big fan of the traditional big kind, too mushy)
Cherry tomatoes
Light soy
Groundnut oil
Spring onions

Get the oil smoking hot, add thinly sliced ginger (I like my ginger in chunks big enough to eat, but feel free to dice it) stirfry for a few seconds, then add the broccoli (I usually halve each stem), stirfy that for a couple of minutes, then throw in cherry tomatoes sliced in half – I did about twice as much broccoli as tomatoes. When they have gone fairly mushy, add a good dose of light soy and stirfry for another 30 seconds or so. Turn off the heat and then add thinly sliced spring onions. The broccoli should be fairly firm, but edible 🙂

I also like to chuck some sesame oil on things like this, after the spring onions, but I guess its optional.

22 Aug 2009

Japanese Curry

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 19:04

Last night I cooked an absolutely delicious (if I say so myself) Japanese curry for my guests – no recipe, because just copying out somebody else’s seems uncool, though I believe it is technically permitted. You can, however, find the recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible.

I had no idea the Japanese even ate curry until I came across this recipe but anyway, some comments…

Firstly, it was fantastically quick to cook, 10 minutes from start to end – far, far faster than any other curry I know how to make. It did take a while to prepare, mostly because slicing enough beef for eight people into 1/8 inch thick pieces takes quite some time. Even with a ceramic knife.

Secondly, its not really a Japanese curry, it’s Madhur’s guess at how to cook one without the specialist Japanese ingredients.

Thirdly, I served it with plain boiled rice and hot and sour aubergine (my older son, Felix, cooked it), which comes from another masterpiece of Madhur Jaffrey’s: “World Vegetarian Cookbook” – which no kitchen is complete without. Incidentally, this is the dish for which I am most often asked to provide a recipe. Again, sorry, you’ll have to get the book (by the way, there’s an American version of this book which is strangely different, but equally good, as far as I can tell – I don’t know if this recipe is in there).

Fourthly, Felix and I were of the opinion that just stir-frying the marinated meat would make a pretty fine dish, too. I haven’t tried it yet, but I intend to.

Fifthly, my younger son informs me that this recipe is highly unauthentic because it contains garlic, which is practically banned in Japan, he claims. I don’t care, it was lovely.

Finally, I used double cream instead of whipping cream, since that’s what I had. Seemed to work just fine.

16 Aug 2009

Ceramic Knife

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 14:43

I’ve been lusting after a ceramic knife for ages now. I finally got around to buying a Kyocera 16cm knife. Absolutely awesome, I’ve never had such a sharp knife, really nice to use, and very light, too.

4 Jan 2009

Ken Hom’s “Chinese Cookery”

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 19:39

I cooked a snack this afternoon, crab and sweetcorn soup, a classic dish which I always cook from the fantastic book “Chinese Cookery” by Ken Hom. As we ate it my older son, who is home from university for a few weeks, complained yet again that you can’t get the book anymore. So, I decided to have a look to see if I could find a secondhand copy. To my amazement it is in print again, as of a few days ago, and you can get it for about a tenner from Amazon!

Of all Ken Hom’s books this is my favourite – great food with simple recipes that actually work, and can be achieved without too many specialist ingredients or tools. My own copy is in three pieces it has been used so much.

20 May 2008

Picnic Cous Cous

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 9:42

I invented this to eat at Glyndebourne, doncha know.

Olive oil
Onion, chopped
Cumin, dry fried and ground
Coriander, dry friend and ground
Ginger, finely chopped
Chicken breast (might also be nice with thigh), roughly chopped
Dried apricots, soaked
Chicken stock
Pistachios, shelled and roasted
Pine nuts, roasted
Coriander leaf
Cous cous

Although I describe the nuts as roasted I actually did them in a dry frying pan over a low heat, stirring constantly. Likewise the spices (of which you need a lot).

Gently fry the onions in olive oil until soft. Add the ground spices and ginger, increase the heat a little, stir and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped chicken breast and cook, stirring occasionally, until mostly done. Add the liquid from the soaked apricots, roughly chop the apricots and add them, plus the raisins and a little concentrated chicken stock (I use a liquid concentrate). If there isn’t enough water, then add some more, but you don’t need to even cover the chicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the larger chicken pieces with your spoon. After about 30 minutes, turn off and leave to cool (overnight if you wish).

Then prepare the cous cous according to its instructions. Once it is ready, mix in the cooled (and thickened, there should be no free liquid by now) chicken stuff, the nuts, lots of chopped coriander and a little chopped parsley. Then wrap it up and take it to your picnic. We had a green salad and a potato salad with it.

I was planning to offer lime wedges for squeezing over it, but I forgot.

Also nice microwaved if you have leftovers.

18 Mar 2008

Pork Chops in Cider

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 13:33

This recipe was originally cooked for me by my friend Honk. Well, something somewhat like it was.

pork chops
mixed herbs
olive oil
more garlic
cooking apples

Smear the pork chops with crushed garlic, mixed herbs, salt and pepper. I’m lazy, so I only do one side. Grill them so they’re nicely browned on each side but not cooked all the way through. Starting with them slightly frozen might help.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the onions and cook them in olive oil until sweet. Add butter, sliced mushrooms, more crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Be generous with the butter. Cook the mushrooms very gently until they’re soft and laden with butter. Add cider, quarter of a can at a time, reducing it to almost nothing each time. Somewhere in there, add sliced cooking apple. When the apple is nearly soft and you still have some cider left, add the grilled pork chops to this mess. Cook them in the final reduction of cider. Once that’s done, turn off the heat and add cream.

Eat. And feel fat.

For guidance for 4 pork chops I used four flat mushrooms, three 750 cl cans of cider and two cooking apples. Cream I leave to your conscience. Obviously the chops need some fat on them or this will be totally boring. In fact, I lust after the chops I once saw in The Ginger Pig which were over half fat. Yum.

Sauteed potatoes are good with this. And peas if you’re lazy. Spinach if less so.

23 Dec 2007

Spicey Chicken with Orange

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 11:02

This is inspired by a Ken Hom recipe for beef and orange, which I often cook to use up leftover roast beef.

Chicken breasts
Spring onion
Dark soy sauce
Groundnut oil
Dried red chillis
Orange zest
Szechuan peppercorns
Rice wine
Sesame oil

Thinly slice the chicken breasts (about 2-3 mm thick, across the grain). Marinade them in dark soy, finely chopped spring onions and slices of ginger (I use a lot of ginger, because I love it) for at least 30 minutes.

Heat some groundnut (or other) oil in a wok over a high heat until it is smoking. Throw in two lightly crushed dried red chillis and stirfry for a few seconds (this will produce smoke that makes everyone cough – this is normal), then add the chicken and stirfry until it is just cooked (should only take a minute or two, depending on quantity and how much heat you can bring to bear). Add finely sliced orange zest, crushed Szechuan peppercorns, more soy, a smidge of rice wine and a little sugar. Stir and fry for another couple of minutes. Take off the heat and stir in a little sesame oil.

Eat with plain boiled white rice and a simple vegetable (I did pak choi with soy last night).

Some notes: dried red chillis, despite being very, very small are really quite hot. Two of them to a pound or so of chicken gives noticeable (but not fire-hydrant-requiring) bite.

Szechuan pepper is not related to pepper at all (I believe it is some kind of ash, in fact) and I know of no substitute. It is vital to the flavour of this dish. For guidance, for a pound of chicken I’ll use about a teaspoon of Szechuan pepper, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar.

Sesame oil is entirely optional, but I’m a big fan. I’d probably sometimes also add some more spring onion at the same time as the sesame oil, but I didn’t last night, so I am not specifying it. Spring onion that has been wilted by the heat of the dish alone is delicious, IMO.

The secret of tender chicken is to not overcook it, so you really need to stop stir-frying it and add the rest of the ingredients as soon as you can – even a little before all the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Because it is so thin, as soon as the outside looks done (i.e. has changed colour – it gets lighter when it cooks), it is done all the way through. If the chicken does not feel moist and delicate, you overdid it.

23 Oct 2007

Aubergine and Halloumi: a Snack

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 15:31


Olive oil
Cumin seeds

Slice the aubergine longways into slices about 1/4″ thick. Brush with olive oil, salt, pepper and lots of whole cumin seeds. Slice the halloumi into slightly thinner slices. Grill halloumi and aubergine slices till brown both sides. Combine, one slice of each, and eat.

A nice starter if you don’t mind a staggered start – must be served hot!

30 Sep 2007

Lamb and Apricot Stew

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 12:32

I’ve toyed around with this recipe for some time but I think my most recent effort was my best. As usual, you’re on your own with quantities.

Dried apricots
Olive oil
Lean lamb steak
Cinammon stick(s)

Put the dried apricots in just enough water to cover and soak for a while. Slice the onion into thin rings, fry until slightly brown in olive oil. Towards the end, add a cinammon stick or two and some cloves, stir and fry for a minute or so. Cube the lamb steak and add it, stirring and frying over a high heat until browned all over. Season with salt and pepper during this. Add the water from the dried apricots, and some extra water if needed to cover the lamb. Bring to a simmer, cover and let it cook for a while – say 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the water – its OK if it gets a bit thick, but you don’t want it to dry out. Stir occasionally. Then add the soaked apricots and some raisins. These should be in generous proportion to the lamb, the idea is to produce something that’s really quite sweet. Simmer for another 30 minutes or so, until the lamb is tender, stirring and topping up as needed.

Serve with rice or cous cous (I made saffron rice this time) and a vegetable (I did one of my favourites – stir-fried purple sprouting broccoli with ginger and soy).

I’m wondering if I added some other flavouring, like wine or stock, but I don’t remember doing it. Probably doesn’t need it – the apricots/raisins/spices are quite intense. This is also one of those dishes that would work really well prepared a day in advance and reheated. Certainly the leftovers were delicious.

I was planning to add orange zest towards the end, but I forgot. Still, a variant worth trying, I think.

19 Apr 2007

Chicken Satay

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 10:04

Because of the unseasonally nice weather, I’ve done a few barbecues lately. I cooked chicken satay a couple of nights ago for some friends, one of whom has just asked for my recipe. Since I’ve gone to all the bother of writing it up, I thought I’d put it here…

Satay sauce

Heat some oil quite hot (almost smoking), add crushed garlic, let it cook a little and then a couple of teaspoons of violent Thai red curry paste (cheap stuff in plastic tubs with Thai writing on preferred, supermarket stuff is too mild), stir and cook that for 1 minute or so, then add coconut milk (I use a whole can). Bring the coconut milk to the boil, stirring in the curry paste as you do. Then add (crunchy, ideally) peanut butter, half a jar or so, more if you want. It’ll look kinda thin, but don’t worry, it thickens. Keep stirring occasionally and reduce the heat so its bubbling but not hard. Once it starts to thicken add a gloop of orange juice and thicken again, repeat a few times, stirring as often as is needed to stop it sticking. This stuff can sit forever so once you are happy with the flavour you can just turn it off and reheat just before you eat. Note, you will get a fuckload of oil separating out – just stir it in, it stays mixed for a while 🙂

Chicken marinade

There are various marinades, but the one I used was black treacle, ginger, spring onion, lemon juice and soy (go easy on the soy, just to add a bit of salt, really). I never do this early enough – the longer the better.

Cumin and coriander (seeds or leaves) also go nicely in the marinade.

Obviously the chicken gets cubed and dumped in the mariande, and after sitting for a while, threaded on skewers and barbecued. I usually do boiled rice, cucumber salad (slice a cucumber as thinly as you can, add salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar, let it sit for a few hours, stirring occasionally), and barbecue a few vegetables (courgettes, mushrooms, aubergine, for example) to go with it.

When I was a kid and Thai restaurants were just appearing in London, satay was always served with cold cubes of compressed rice and coconut. This seems to have gone entirely out of fashion (I’ve never tried making them either), which seems a shame.
Translations for the Yanks: courgettes = zucchini, aubergine = eggplant, coriander leaf = cilantro, peanut butter = peanuts, peanut oil, salt, sugar – no palm oil, apple juice or other perversions designed to allow the manufacturer to claim “no added sugar”. If you’re a wholefood fan you might need to add salt and sugar to the satay sauce.

9 Mar 2007

Teriyaki/Ginger/Lime Salmon

Filed under: Food,Recipes — Ben @ 23:44

Faced by conflicting desires this evening, I invented this dish.

Cover a baking dish with enough salmon to feed you (I used 150g per head and I was cooking for 4). Finely chop a bunch of spring onion (3 medium in my case) and cover the salmon with it. Thinly slice ginger and add a layer of that, widely spaced. Add a layer of thin lime slices, also widely spaced. Cover with teriyaki and dark soy, then liberally sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes.

I had this with rice and purple sprouting broccoli.

19 Jul 2006

Chicken, Almond and Orange

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 19:37

I’ve cooked this a few times, its pretty quick and easy, but it tastes nice.

Chop skinned chicken breast into chunks, marinade in soy, ginger, spring onion and orange zest (all chopped smallish, the ginger and orange in strips, the spring onion diced small). While it is marinading fry blanched almonds in a little oil at a low temperature, stirring continuously, until they brown slightly. Note that burning the almonds makes them bitter, so don’t do it. Set aside the fried almonds (I always have to ask for help here, coz I always forget to get a bowl out for them, and if you pause they burn and that’s bad).

Heat oil ’til its smoking (in a wok or a heavy pan) then quickly stir-fry the chicken with its marinade. Ideally do this until it isn’t quite cooked – chicken goes tough quite quickly, so if you want it tender you need to pay attention here. When you were chopping orange and spring onion, you wisely left half of each aside – add them at this point and some chopped coriander leaf (cilantro for the Yanks) [optional] and stir-fry for 30 seconds or so. Add a generous gloop of sesame oil, stir and serve, with rice and a green vegetable (last time I did leeks, pak choy is also good – my host also provided a tomato salad which went rather better than I expected, so give that a try).

17 Mar 2006

Tuna with Cumin and Orange

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 10:39

Last night my wife did her usual thing of presenting me with some ingredients and wanting me to cook something. What she offered was tuna steaks, leeks, mushrooms and spring greens. I was in a hurry so here’s what I cooked (yes, my kitchen is well stocked)…

Slice some ginger into thin slices, heat extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan until its pretty darn hot, chuck in the ginger slices, which should sizzle. Add a good sprinkling of whole cumin seeds, stir and fry them for a minute or so. Now put your tuna steaks on top of the cumin and ginger. Fry them for about two minutes – you should see about an eighth of an inch of cookedness up the sides. Sprinkle over finely sliced orange zest, then turn the tuna. Let it cook for a few more minutes, until still rare in the middle. Pour over a good dollop of port – this should boil pretty much instantly, or your pan isn’t hot enough. Let it cook until the port is reduced. I would serve it at this point, but my family is squeamish about rare fish, so I added more port and repeated the reduction, which should just cook through the tuna.

I served this with boiled rice and a leek, mushroom and light soy stirfry. If you are using something less salty, then add some salt to the tuna early on.

Very quick and easy. If I did it again I might consider finely chopped spring onions right at the end, though that would radically alter the flavour.

Why was I in a hurry? Because we’d been to see a rather wonderful silver exhibition at a friend’s art gallery, Flow, so it was late.

1 Mar 2006

Onion Tart Tatin

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 16:53

This is a great starter, very easy to make. I actually saw it made on TV, but the recipe he used doesn’t, in my experience, work. Here’s my version…


Puff pastry
Goats cheese

Make some caramel, and put it on the bottom of a baking tray (given that I usually screw up the caramel, you can probably get away with just putting butter and sugar on the tray). Slice whole peeled onions ringwise into slices around 3/4 inch thick. Cover the bottom of the tray with them (just one layer deep). Don’t be too thorough – you want some gaps. Cover with puff pastry – press the pastry down to fill any gaps, touching the caramel. Bake for about 30 mins at gas mark 7 – until the pastry is done.

Invert onto a serving dish – slice it up and on each portion put a chunk of goats cheese so it melts slightly. Serve hot.

Camilla reminds me that you’re supposed to serve it with reduced balsamic vinegar drizzled (as poncy chefs like to say) over the top. I forgot last time and it was fine but it’s not a bad idea.

26 Jan 2006

Sausage Soup

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 17:22

I cook a lot. And people ask me for recipes. So, I’ll write them up occasionally. Here’s one I did a couple of days ago. My Dad used to make it with frankfurters, but my kids don’t like frankfurters, so its been modified.

I’m afraid I don’t measure things much when I cook, so you’ll have to guess…

Chicken Stock
Bacon (I like smoked streaky)

Dice the spuds, about 1/2″ cubes. Fry them gently for 5-10 minutes in butter. Chop the leeks into 1/2″ rings, add leeks and chicken stock (enough to cover them plus the leeks and then an inch or so), and simmer.

While this is going on, chop bacon into 1/2″ bits, and fry with crushed garlic in oil until crispy. Remove the bacon, leave the oil, chop the sossies into 3 or 4 bits each, then fry those until lightly browned.

By this time the spuds should be soft. Add the bacon and fried sausages and cook for another few minutes. Salt/pepper/herbs to taste. Eat with crusty bread. Warning: the spuds tend to burn your mouth.

A bowlful and a half is usually enough for a whole meal.

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