Sunday, March 26, 2006

Speedy shrimp

The brief for IMBB24 was to cook a meal from scratch in 30 min and as this is my first IMBB I thought it would be appropriate to use the crustacean this blog is named after. So I decided to make Amai Udon from the Wagamama cookbook as they pride themselves on their quick and easy recipes. I’ve always thought they looked quite convoluted when I opened the book and haven’t really cooked from it that much yet. So after a busy day planting vegetables in the garden, I decided to put it to the test. It was a lot easier than I’d expected. Even though you had to make a separate sauce it only takes about 2 min to dissolve the sugar for the sauce in which time you can prepare all the other ingredients. We also used fresh noodles, which made it a lot easier as they only needed to be boiled for a few minutes and the whole meal was done in no time. There was still 7 min 18 sec left on the timer….so plenty of time to make dessert! The noodles tasted very nice and I liked the creamy texture the egg gave to the sweet, salty sauce. I did find the taste a bit too strong next to the subtle tastes of the shrimp and tofu so in the future I would add less of the Amai sauce to the mixture.

Amai Udon (serves 2)
400g (14oz) Udon noodles
2 eggs, beaten
75 ml Amai sauce (3fl oz; I personally would add less)
1 large leek, finely sliced
6 cooked peeled prawns
large handful of beansprouts
2 tbsp vegetable oil
110g (4oz) firm tofu, cut into 10 cubes
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts

cook the noodles in a large pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes until just tender, drain, refresh under cool running water and reserve. Mix egg, Amai sauce with leeks, prawns, beansprouts and noodles in a bowl and stir together. Heat a wok over medium heat, then when slightly smoking , add the oil and fry the tofu till browning slightly. Tip the contents of the bowl into the wok and stir fry for 3-4 min till the egg is cooked and the leek has softened. Divide between two bowls, sprinkle with lime juice and chopped peanuts

Amai sauce (makes 125ml/4fl oz)
1 tbsp malt vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
pinch of salt
1.5 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tsp tamarind paste

Gently heat vinegar, sugar and soy until the sugar has dissolved, then add the other ingredients and set aside.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Squashed Tomme

I decided to use up some of the cheese I brought back from my recent trip to France. One of them was a small Tomme, a local cheese there which is creamy and has a subtle smelly cheese flavour (don't know the best way to describe it., but its not as overpowering as a morbier or reblochon). I decided to combine the cheese with a squash I still had in the fridge. A friend recently served us roasted slices of squash which were delish and I wanted to try and make them. So I cut the squash in pieces, brushed with olive oil, seasoned and roasted them in the oven for 45 min at 220C. The inside tasted lovely but on the outside they had gone all dry, whereas the other's I'd had before were all lovely and moist (tips would be greatly appreciated). I kept a few slices whole and put the rest into a plain risotto (onion, garlic and vegetable stock) with some sage, then cut the cheese in half and served it with a pumpkin slice on top. It looked beautifull and I really liked the soft creamy flavor of the cheese with the squash. It was a lovely warming dinner on a cold snowy day, but I will have to perfect my roasting techique!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A week "en Savoie"

We spent a week on holiday in a part of France called Haute-Savoie. This is the alps, just south of Geneva and a beautiful part of the country full of lovely food. We had a wonderful week with tonnes of snow, skiing and indulging in local are some of the things we had. My favourite biscuits ever, Galette St Michel, they are like a slightly sweeter, finer biscuit and I'm desperately addicted to them. For breakfast we would have fresh bread with some Conte, Tomme de Savoie, Morbier, saussison sec and gelee de coins (quince-another favourite). Then we had more cheese for lunch and dinners in tartiflettes, quiche au reblochon and raclette. This was all digested with local wines like Abymes, Apresmont, Chignin and Gamay. For dessert we would have lovely gateaux like pear and chocolate with a ground almond and sweet eggy batter on top, Bugnes, appeltart, chocolate and nut tart and more! so much jummy was a shame to leave but not without some provisions in my bag.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A sunny parcel

After returning from a weeks skiing holiday in France (which was a bit of an epic with all the snow across Europe) I realised my organic parcel from the south of Spain had arrived. I got the chance to order one of these boxes through a friend of mine who’s parents run an beautifull organic farm near Carlisle and jumped at the opportunity. 5 Liters of lovely olive oil, 1.5 liters olives in brine, sundried tomatoes and 10 kg of lemons, oranges, almonds. That’s what I call a lovely sunny package to come home to in this winter weather. I cant wait to try them!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Chocolate extravagance....

Last weekend we were in Edinburgh visiting friends and I finally made it Plaisir du Chocolat. I had been wanting to go to this café that specializes in chocolate for a very, very long time. I first read about it in March 2005 when I was travelling in India. We were in Macload Ganj learning about Tibetan and Indian cooking and reading books on the sunny terraces in between. As I finished my book, I traded it in the hostel for a book called Debatable Land by Candia McWilliam. In this book, which is not the best, the main character is sailing on a boat from Tahiti to New Zealand and reminisces about his life back in Scotland, one of which was a day where he had hot chocolate in this cafe in Edinburgh and the description just made you want to go there (being a chocoholic does help too!).

I always thought it was a fictional place until my friend told me last month it actually exists. So last Sunday we made it there, after a nice walk through the cold, crisp and sunny city centre, we wondered down the Royal Mile, and there, between the old buildings is this lovely art deco style café. Walking in the door you are received by this wonderful thick scent of proper chocolate. So after pondering the menu and the cake display, I settled on a Tanzania hot chocolate, he had a Chocolate expresso and we shared a wonderful piece of raspberry chocolate gateau. The hot chocolate was really nice, made with 73% chocolate, it had a lovely hint of vanilla but was still nice and bitter….but I have to say the expresso has to be my favourite. It was really rich and thick and just sooooo chocolaty. The cake was divine, a very simple short crust with raspberry puree and chocolate mousse (but a really nice thick one) on top. I could have been hit by a bus and died happy after that…..

But luckily that didn’t happen as we also treated ourselves to a box of 4 chocolates to take home. We chose Uji, Scotland and Bounty, which were a dark chocolate outside filled with white chocolate ganache infused with matcha tea, whiskey and honey and coconut respectively. We also one Espelette which was dark chocolate filled with a dark ganache infused with chilli pepper from the Basque region. All chocolates were individually beautifully decorated and were a pleasure to look at and eat. We also got a box as a present for my parents with more pretty chocolates but as it’s taped shut, the pictures will have to wait.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A very belated birthday present

My parents kindly agreed to sponsor me to buy a digital camera for my birthday. It took me about a month to decide so after a long internal debate I finally settled on this digital camera. It’s unbelievable how much choice there is out there and in the end, the reason I picked this one was that the first digital camera I came into contact with was a Sony. Not very scientific I’m afraid. So it arrived in the post today and here’s the first picture. We made a very nice Chana Masala and it tasted just as good as it looks. This should make blogging a lot easier as I don’t have to wait to finish my film, get it developed, scan the pictures and more. However, I think/hope I’ll still keep using my SLR and medium format camera for all my other photography!