jump to navigation

Masala papad 6 February 2012

Posted by cath in mildly spicy, Recipes, shopping notes.
add a comment

Everyone loves poppadums… don’t they?
When I was young, living with my family in Hong Kong, we used to eat a lot of Indian meals out at a restaurant called ‘The Tandoor’ if i remember correctly. They had a dish there which we all loved called masala papad and although i don’t know their recipe, this is inspired by memories of that place.

Basically, it’s a poppadum topped with fresh tomato, onion and herbs. You have to add the topping at the last minute, but it looks and tastes great.

image

A picture of tonight’s starter of masala papad.

Here’s how you make it…

Finely chop a small onion, a few ripe tomatoes, a clove of garlic, some fresh chili and coriander leaf. Mix together with a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Leave to let the flavours mix.

Then cook some poppadums. I use the hotplate on the aga but you can also cook them in the microwave. I love the flavoured ones you can buy from Asian shops, like these:

image

Once cooked, the poppadums can be topped with a sprinkle of the tomato mixture, try to drain each spoonful on the side as too much liquid will make the poppadums soggy! Eat right away.

Of course you can just have poppadums with a range of chutneys instead, but either way i would definitely recommend cooking your own. Try it and see!

Cookalicious Musings 1 February 2009

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, shopping notes.
1 comment so far

Was musing on excessive food packaging recently, see my other blog. It also reminded me of this comment from Tracy’s latest newsletter (Fitness with Tracy Griffen – February 2009) on the proliferation of pre-chopped vegetables and salads:

A chopping board and a knife is all you need to make carrot sticks, chopped oranges.

Yes! So get out your chopping boards people!

People can only continue to sell this stuff as long as we continue to buy it…

So the question is, are people prepared to change their habits? Can we be persuaded to use these simple skills again?

I hope so!

This year I also hope I can help some friends start their own veggie patch. I want to find out more about growing my own so that I’m prepared for when I get a garden one day! What I hope they get out of it is:

  • cost-effective, really tasty and fresh food
  • some good times outside with family and friends maybe?!
  • a sense of achievement :)
  • less trips to the supermarket
  • and a lot less packaging and waste
  • plus more material for the compost bin, yeah!

But as a gardening novice myself, we’ll have to see!

Mexican Dips > Salsa 26 May 2008

Posted by cath in easy, herbs, ingredients, mildly spicy, Recipes, shopping notes, variations, very spicy.
add a comment

Simple, spicy, tasty – try this salsa to go with all kinds of foods – not just mexican! I use leftovers in cheese sandwiches, with cold meats and salads, and of course as a relish for home-made burgers…

Ingredients

Tomatoes – 8-10 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped*

2 Spring onions – finely chopped

Garlic – 2-3 cloves (to taste) crushed and chopped fine

Coriander leaf and stalk – small bunch, chop stalks finely, leaves roughly

Red/green chillies – 2-5 (to taste) chopped finely

1 tsp dried oregano

salt/pepper

tequila – 1 tbsp

lime juice – 1-2 tbsp (to taste).

Preparation

Combine everything in a bowl. Keeps in the fridge until needed.

If you’re pressed for time you can even chop everything roughly and blitz it in a hand blender or similar.  I prefer it more rustic, but you can also blend it until it’s smooth if you prefer.

* Out of season, you can use tinned tomatoes, although I recommend draining them well first or the salsa will be very runny (use the juice in the chilli con carne, or reserve for pasta sauce, stews etc. – it keeps well in the fridge).

For something a little different try a tin of green tomatoes – again drain before use and substitute for the red tomatoes. You can buy green tomatoes in tins from Lupe Pintos in Edinburgh.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2008 25 February 2008

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes.
add a comment

Go on! Try something fairtrade this fortnight…or any fortnight!

This is my review of fairtrade goodies. The list is evolving as I try and test fairtrade stuff available from local shops in my area.

1. Fairtrade Vanilla Ice Cream

Cream o Galloway – this one is locally produced using fairtrade sugar and vanilla, also uses organic egg yolks, so no concerns about the quality of life of those laying hens. I loved it, and can’t wait to try the chocolate flavour…

I’ve also tried Ben&Jerrys – this one also uses fairtrade sugar and vanilla, they also use free range eggs in their products which is reassuring. Again, a good quality ice-cream and a little easier to find in the shops from this popular brand name.

2. A bit early for Easter…but… Fairtrade Mini Eggs

Dubble Speckled Eggs – finally an ethical mini egg. The good news is that it tastes great, and with fairtrade vanilla, sugar and chocolate it is good too! I’ve seen them in the One World Shop, also in Oxfam shops around the country.

The fairtrade chocolate from Dubble and Divine tastes excellent, so make sure you go fairtrade for all your Easter eggs. There are also other varieties and brands to consider. See the fairtrade website for more details about fairtrade chocolate

3. Fairtrade Cola

Yes, there is an alternative to Pepsi and Coca Cola…and it is Ubuntu cola (not to be mistaken for the Linux distribution of the same name!*).

You can buy it in the One World Shop up here in Edinburgh, it is a very tasty cola made with fairtrade sugar (they state they are also going to try to source fairtrade caffeine from the fairtrade coffee industry which is interesting too). Check out the Ubuntu-Trading Website for more info and stockists in your area.

4. Fairtrade Vanilla

I’ve tried a couple of brands of fairtrade vanilla pods (Barts Spices and Ndali) and have recently tried the Ndali Vanilla Extract. This has been quite useful in brownie making – and is a lot less hassle than the pods. The extract is very different to the synthetic vanilla flavours I remember from years ago, and definitely worth a try if your a fan of vanilla.

5. Fairtrade Coffee – the old favourite

It has been a long time that Fairtrade coffee has been in the shops and in our coffee houses. Make sure you get a fairtrade cup – ask next time you order a coffee and make sure your cupboard at home/work is also stocked up with fairtrade:

Cafe-direct now does a massive range of coffee and more products besides.

Scotmid (or the Co-op) also has a full range of coffee and chocolate, also much much more, check out their website for more details.

Espresso Ground Coffee…

We’ve always found it hard to get good espresso coffee to make at home, but can recommend Clipper Espresso (with the picture of the Three Graces on the front). Great for use in your stove-top coffee pot.

6. Fairtrade Cooked & Canned Beans!

No, I’m not talking about baked beans! (but I can recommend Scotmid Organic Baked Beans, although presently they are not fairtrade).

These are Aduki Beans – a small, red bean – nutty and delicious. Particularly good as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes like cottage pie etc.

I’ve just made a vegetable and bean chilli con carne with Suma Organic, Fairtrade Aduki Beans, Black Eye & Kidney beans too, with lots of veg. The tinned beans are pre-cooked so they are very quick and easy to use. They don’t require lots of soaking/blanching etc. Best of all, they are now fairly traded.

Look out for them in your local shops. I’ll post my veggie chilli recipe soon…

7. Fairtrade Bananas – Let them loose!

I would love to eat more fairtrade bananas, but I have a problem buying the plastic packs of 7 or so bananas ubiquitously available in the supermarkets today. I don’t want 7 bananas, sometimes I just want one for lunch or as a healthy afternoon snack. Well, during fairtrade fortnight, I went in search of the humble loose fairtrade banana, with very little luck I’m afraid. I asked at several local shops who had the fairtrade poster up, but their bananas were not fairtrade! But I did find small packets of bananas in my local Scotmid – I got a pack of three for 54p – good value, but why the plastic packaging I wonder?

Quite unexpectedly I finally found the illusive loose fairtrade banana in my local Margiotta (a local chain of shops in Edinburgh) in Marchmont. The price was higher than Scotmid, but I was able to buy two individual (not plastic wrapped) fairtrade (with the mark on a sticker) bananas for 55p. Come on shops – lets see more of this please!

8. Other Fairtrade Fruits

Fairtrade oranges and citrus fruits have been in my local Scotmid, and some other supermarkets for a while now, but this fortnight I’ve been looking for more options. I’ve tried fairtrade grapes from Marks & Spencers this week, they were very nice, and good value due to being half-price (I expect that was just for fairtrade fortnight though!).

Other good ones to look out for are pineapple, mango and avocado – available from a lot of supermarkets, and some local organic stores.

8. Fairtrade Sugar

Nowadays you can buy a lot of different sugars, granulated, white, soft brown etc. Sadly I’ve not yet found any icing sugar for my brownie mix, so I’ll keep looking. Make sure your sugar bowl is full of fairtrade!

9. Fairtrade Cotton Anyone?

OK so it’s not food, but check out the increasing availability of fairtrade cotton for your clothes. I love People Tree and the One World Shop…but there is a lot more to choose from nowadays.

 

There is a lot more information on Fairtrade including product listings and brands. Check out the Fairtrade Website for more details.

 

 

 

 

*if you are actually interested in Ubuntu Linux (an open-source, free operating system), the website is: http://www.ubuntu.com/

Mushrooms 11 September 2007

Posted by cath in ingredients, shopping notes.
add a comment

No recipe today! Instead I offer an inspiration of mushrooms. Taken at Bakewell Farmers Market, Derbyshire. A fantastic stall and very popular…as it should be!

Mushroom Stall at Bakewell Market

Mushrooms Galore.

Cooking Chinese 6 December 2006

Posted by cath in Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, shopping notes, stir-fry.
3 comments

A Note About Chinese Supermarket Goodies

If you enjoy stir-frying, then you’ll definitely want to pick up a few essentials from the Chinese Supermarket:

Shaoxing rice wine

Shaoxing Rice Wine

You can try using white wine, or if you happen to have some dry sherry, that would be better…but really there is nothing better than the real thing – it keeps well once opened.

Dried Shitake Mushrooms

Shitake Mushrooms - Dried

Really useful for more than just Chinese food…You only need to soak them for around 10 minutes in warm water, then chop and add to the dish. Some cooks suggest removing the more fibrous stalk – but it’s never done me any harm!

I also add chopped, soaked mushrooms them to risotto – and soaking a mixture of dried porcini, chanterelles and shitake for half an hour or so makes a fantastic mushroom stock for the risotto too.

I would also consider them as a substitute for fresh mushrooms in other recipes too.

Sesame oil

Sesame Oil

Also good for marinades and to add some nutty flavour to noodles.

Dried Noodles

Noodles

You can get a vast array of Chinese (and Japanese) style noodles, quick to cook so that always means fast food!

Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Excellent for a variety of marinades and sauces (including Sweet and Sour Sauce). Keeps (for ages, and I mean literally years) in a cold cupboard or in the fridge.

Vegetarians, look out for a mushroom version, which is very similar in style to this sauce and makes a good veggie substitute.

Soy Sauce – Light and Dark

Soy Sauces

A must have – and definitely worth buying these large bottles at the Chinese supermarket they are much cheaper than supermarket equivalents.

The Light version is usually added to cooking and to season the finished dishes.

The Dark version more often used in marinades.

New Thai Shop in Bruntsfield 20 August 2006

Posted by cath in Cooking Links, general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, Thai food.
add a comment

I spotted another shop offering fresh Thai produce, this time in Bruntsfield Place (near the fantastic Coco of Bruntsfield chocolate shop…but that’s another story…!)
Orient Thai Market (162-164 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh) has a small selection of fresh imported Thai goods (and can do special orders on request) and a wide range of canned and dried goods. There is a small Japanese section which could also be of interest.

It looks like another good place to go and pick up some fresh Thai basil leaves, galangal (ginza) and chillies. One more thing they have on offer is a recipe card and help finding the appropriate ingredients in store, and a Thai Tourism publication which has lots of information about Thai cuisine, ingredients and some recipes.

This means it’s time for me to get typing and give you all some new thai dishes to try too….

Strawberries and more uses for that Vanilla Sugar… 29 May 2006

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, desserts, easy, fruit, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes.
add a comment

Strawberrys

Yesterday we had fresh strawberries (Scottish) from the Farmers Market, and to be extra bad we were dipping them in my home-made vanilla caster sugar.

The vanilla sugar worked really well with the strawberries…so tick another reason why you should go buy some fairtrade vanilla pods from Barts Spices or Ndali.

If you’re still buying strawberries at the supermarket – stop! These fresh strawberries from the market were much juicier and sweeter, and had a better bite to them than the imported stuff, or strawberries that have simply been travelling and kicking around too much in depots.

Summer is definately here, but the strawberry pick your own time (here in Scotland) is not quite upon us. We should be out picking our own at Lowes farm by the end of June…more about that when the time comes.

Here is another picture in the meantime…

closeup

Notes > Thai Ingredients Part 4 > Staples 29 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, Thai food.
add a comment

InformationAsian Supermarket Staples
Buying Thai Rice:

Buying large bags of rice from the Thai or Chinese Supermarket is great value, here is my favourite brand, but others are also good. Look out for AAA quality and the words “New Crop”. Also it is worth double checking that you are not buying “broken rice” which although cheaper is long grains that have been broken or crushed, so it won’t make the best fluffy steamed rice.

I actually prefer Thai rice to Basmati (although many people still consider this to be the finest rice you can buy), by all means use Basmati if you prefer it, but think about trying Thai Fragrant Rice with your Thai food.

thai fragrant rice

Cooking Thai Rice:
I am lucky enough to have a fantastic National (aka Panasonic) Rice Cooker (5-portion) from Thailand which I have been using for years to cook ‘easy and right every time’ steamed rice. If you have the space, and cook a lot of rice, then investing in one of these is really worthwhile. You simply measure the rice in the provided cup, give it a little rinse, then add cold water up to the appropriate mark in the pan and switch on. 10 to 20 minutes later (depending on the amount of rice being cooked) your rice is perfectly cooked – magic!

However, if you don’t have a rice cooker – try the following options:

  • Microwave steamed rice. Using a very large glass bowl or dish, with a lid, place 1 small (i.e. coffee) cup of rice per person in the base and fill up with twice as much water (or make sure there is a bout 2cm of water covering the surface of the rice). Steam in the microwave on high for 12 minutes with the lid on. Then check the rice to see if it’s cooked. It should be soft with a small bite to it, not chalky. Put back for a few minutes if it needs more cooking.
  • You can also buy special rice cookers for the microwave which include measures similar to a stand-alone rice cooker – look out for these, they are really good and especially good for doing 1 or 2 portions quickly. The one I have is Japanese, so I can’t tell you where to find them, but I have seen microwave steamers in the UK, so have a look in your local cook shop.
  • You can cook rice on the stove top – again using the reduction method, i.e. measureing the amount of water added carefully (1 part rice to 2 parts water) and letting the rice absorb the water with the lid on – don’t lift the lid early as the steam will escape and your rice will not cook as well. It should take around 10-15 minutes again, depending on the amount of rice. The benefit of the absorption method is that there is no draining and your rice will be fluffy rather than soggy.

Other Staples from the Asian Supermarket
Fish Sauce

thai fish sauce

A thin, brown, salty liquid used instead of salt, similarly to soy sauce in Thai recipes. Darker sauces are higher in quality and have a strong fishy taste rather than being just salty.
I like Squid brand and try not to think about what is in there or how it’s made :)
Seriously though, soy sauce can be used as a substitute, especially for vegetarians, but nothing compares to the classic taste of fish sauce in your Thai dishes, try it!

Coconut Milk

coconut milk

Although fresh coconut is far superior, it is not something that is easy to get hold of here in the UK. If you fancy making it yourself I’ll post a recipe for that in the future. For now, to get started, tins of coconut milk make an excellent substitute.
Here are my two favourite brands. Aroy-D (‘Aroy dee’ meaning yummy in Thai) and Chao Koh. Be careful of buying cheap brands as they have too much liquid and not enough coconut in the can. Also watch out for sweetened versions of tinned coconut milk – make sure you are buying unsweetened milk for your curries, even desserts as you can add your own sweeteners (i.e. palm sugar) and have more control of the final flavour.

Shrimp Paste

shrimp paste

A strong smelling paste made from dried shrimps (so I’m told!), dark in colour and is used sparingly in soups, pastes and dips. These pots of paste last well in the fridge or larder. Anchovy paste can be used as a substitute, or anchovies and water blended is another option. Shrimp paste adds an intense fishy and salty flavour to dishes.

Notes > Thai Ingredients Part 3 > Thai Aubergines 12 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, Thai food.
5 comments

Another few notes on Thai Ingredients Information

Pea Aubergines are small, fairly bitter versions of an aubergine. They have a fairly tough skin, and burst satisfyingly in the mouth. They are are usually added to curries, especially Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Kiaw Wan). They cook quickly, and are usually added to curry for about 5 minutes to soften slightly.

pea aubergines

Pea Aubergines

 

Green or Apple Aubergines are larger, round varieties of aubergine, about the size of a plum. They are green and white, and are usually quartered and added to curries, especially Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Kiaw Wan). They discolour quickly, so are chopped and added immediately to the curry, and cook in 5-10 minutes when they have softened slightly.

thai aubergines

Apple Aubergines