Saturday, 23 February 2013

Hurry Up Spring - Asian Noodle Salad

How very British of me of me to discuss the weather but it is fucking freezing and doesn’t show any sign of letting up soon.  Its been getting me down and I have a freezer stocked with fish fingers and chicken nuggets to eat with beans on toast.  Kids’ food for weather sulking: easy and cheap but not particularly healthy or imaginative.

Eating brown and orange food became repetitive after a while and I turned to this Asian noodle salad to liven things up. I make this when I crave something vibrant and fresh:  the colours alone cheer me up and the kick of chili; intense fresh ginger and fragrant herbs make me feel healthier instantly.   

 I don’t make any claim to its authenticity: it’s a mash-up of the eastern flavours I enjoy and uses what’s readily available in an average supermarket.  

I often eat it with quickly sautéed chicken, or thinly sliced beefsteak.   It would be immense with roast pork belly.  This time I ate it with grilled squid but quite frankly, it’s great on its own and you can remove the noodles for a virtuous low carb, low calorie feast tasting of better weather to come.

Asian Noodle Salad – Serves 4 with other things, 3 on its own.

·      Small bunch/handful coriander, torn roughly

·      Small bunch basil/handful, torn roughly

·      Small bunch mint/handful, torn roughly

·      Half a cucumber, de-seeded (scrape out the juicy middle bit with teaspoon or melon baller) and thinly sliced into 5mm batons

·      3 small carrots (or 2 big ones) finely sliced into strips

·      ¼ small red cabbage finely sliced into strips

·      3-4 spring onions finely sliced diagonally

·      2-3 medium red chilis finely sliced.  Leave out the seeds if you can’t hack it.

·      2 nests of dried fine egg noodles, boiled for 3 minutes then rinsed with cold water under the tap to cool. *Or fine rice vermicelli noodles cooked to packet instructions and left to cool.

For the dressing:

·      3 tablespoons rice vinegar

·      1 tablespoon fish sauce

·      1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

·      2 tablespoons light soy

·      Juice of half a lemon

·      2 inch chunk of ginger peeled and grated with a fine grater

·      2 cloves of crushed garlic

·      1 teaspoon caster sugar

1)   Mix the dressing ingredients in a large bowl

2)   Prepare the noodles.

3)   Chop up all the salad bits or use a mandolin if you're fancy.

4)   Toss the salad bits together with the dressing in the large bowl and taste – it may need a splash more light soy for seasoning.

5)   Eat with protein of your choice or on its tod.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Diet Fail - Pain Au Chocolat French Toast

I’d secretly hoped I’d become ridiculously svelte-like through giving up meat but no such luck: I’m far too creative with cheese and cream.  Veganism might be the next ‘diet’ to try but I’ll probably just end up eating vast amounts of chips.
Pain au chocolate French toast is one of the many reasons why I failed to lose weight in January.  This breakfast is a hybrid of American style French toast and bread and butter pudding.  While it feels like the most decadent thing ever it’s probably still less calorific than a greasy spoon fry-up.  Although it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort I was still smug I’d prepared it the night before, giving the croissants time to soak up the custard mixture so it could just be sprinkled with the crumble topping and flung into the oven for 40 minutes the next morning.  
It is very sweet and very rich.  Slightly wobbly custard and croissants holds little nuggets of chocolate and the crunchy cinnamon topping gives a welcome textural contrast.  This is something to make on a special occasion: throw it together the night before, keep the crumble separate and in the morning when you get up to pee, sprinkle the topping on, put in the oven, get back into bed for a bit, then voila! You’re everyone’s favourite person!  Quite frankly I had some making up to do with everyone who’s been in my vicinity during the last month… with moving house and an exam I haven’t exactly been Pollyanna.

Pain Au Chocolate French Toast With Cinnamon Crumble Topping – Serves 4


·      70 g plain flour

·      110g brown Sugar

·      1 teaspoon Cinnamon

·      1/4 teaspoon Salt

·      Freshly Grated Nutmeg

·      100g cold butter, cut into pieces

French Toast

·      4 stale pain au chocolate (basically any from a supermarket or corner-shop cause they’re never fresh)

·      150 ml whole milk

·      100 g caster sugar

·      4 eggs

·      1 tablespoon vanilla extract (NOT essence)

1)    Lightly butter a 20cm pie dish/cake tin/baking tray and roughly tear up the chocolate croissants into 3 to 4 inch chunks and put in.  They should be loosely packed.

2)    Lightly whisk the eggs and add the caster sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Pour over the croissants, cover with cling-film and refrigerate to soak up overnight, or at a push for an hour.

3)    Using two forks or a pastry cutter mix the butter in with the rest of the topping ingredients until it resembles breadcrumbs, store in an airtight container while the croissants soak up the custard.

4)    The following morning preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

5)    Add the crumble topping to the custard/croissant mixture and bake for around 35-45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and crispy.

6)    Serve with sour cream or Greek yoghurt, coffee and eat in bed.