Healthy Summer Recipe: Prawn and asparagus quinoa salad

Being mixed

I’ll have a packet of … screws up face … quin-oh-ah please I proudly announce to the health food shop. A derisive snort emerges from behind a raft of dreadlocks, followed by a gently nuanced pronunciation of “Keen-wah I think you mean sir”. However you say the damn thing, there’s no denying the tasty wholesomeness of this fashionable grain. No dinner party is complete without a bowl of it, followed shortly by the host announcing “it’s from the Incas you know”. Of course the more political-minded diners will already be discussing the impact on South American economies and their food chain.

But I digress, this was supposed to be a quick recipe after all. So, fry some onions and a bit of fresh chilli, chuck together with quinoa cooked in stock (vegetable or chicken) and whatever happens to be seasonable (I bought British asparagus surprisingly, must be the very end of the season), fry up your prawns for 2-3 minutes on a high heat and there you go. A squeeze of lemon and glug of oil, some seasoning and herbs and you’ve got a superb, nutritious meal in 20 minutes. You want an actual recipe, fine:

The (badly lit) finished article.

Prawn, asparagus and quinoa salad (serves 2)

  • 1 packet of prawns (raw preferably)
  • 2 onions chopped (red / white / a mix)
  • 1 fresh chilli, chopped
  • 2 portions of seasonal veg (in this case a bunch of asparagus roughly chopped)
  • 1 lemon
  • 150g dry quinoa
  • Some mint / basil / coriander / whatever herb you think will go

Start by frying the chopped onions in some oil over a medium heat until they start to turn brown, add the chilli (as much as you feel like) and continue cooking for a few minutes. Cover the quinoa with chicken / vegetable stock or just water and boil for 15-20 minutes, until the germ starts separating from the grain and it is soft (although a bit of bite is desirable I think). Whilst that is happening, cook your veg however you wish (I fried my asparagus on a high heat for 5 minutes, but it could have been boiled for 3-4 minutes). Once the quinoa is cooked bring together the veg, onion, chilli, quinoa in a bowl and add the juice of 1/2 lemon and the herbs if using. Stir fry the prawns quickly on a high heat, 1 min if already cooked or 2-3min if raw until pink through. Add to the mix, season with salt / pepper and check for acidity as well adding more lemon if needed. Serve.

Morito Restaurant Review – Exmouth Market

Signage

It’s a hot sunny Sunday afternoon (do you see a theme in my recent posts) and we had an hour to kill for lunch before seeing some people dance around in a silly manner at the Sadler’s Wells theatre (the less said about that the better). Morito, the little tapas bar offspring of the fantastic Moro, seemed a good choice both time, budget and location wise. We hopped over there and they even had some tables set up outside so we could frazzle our skin a bit more whilst smelling the pork on the plancha inside.

Ice-water was quickly brought together with some menus and a Manzanilla sherry in a chilled glass. The menu has a great selection of tapas with seasonable specials as well as the more usual classics. We opted for 5 dishes between 2 of us. Lamb chops are a must for the holiday effect as Anna calls it. Prawns with green Mojo sauce since neither of us can resist it after a trip to Lanzarote. Fried baby squid for me since I love squid (this proved a controversial choice for Anna). Then samphire / a beetroot, feta, dill and walnut salad to accompany them, plus a bread basket to soak up any errant prawn juice / mojo sauce / lamb marinade.

Prawns with green mojo, samphire and beetroot salads.The prawns came first. Shell on, they were a little small and fiddly and maybe a tad expensive at £7. However they were fresh from the plancha and superbly juicy, the mojo was spot on and every bit of it devoured. I love samphire, a particularly trendy coastal vegetable a bit like a cross between seaweed and asparagus. It was nice and firm, but dressed with much too much lemon and salt for me, too sharp and overpowering. The beetroot salad came slightly “pureed” and mixed in with some sort of yogurt I think. Then topped with walnuts, dill and feta. Nice and refreshing although it could have been a bit earthier perhaps.

Baby squid glinting in the sun

 

The baby squid came as a massive pile, lots of tiny squid with tentacles et al inside the body deep fried in a light coating. No other adornments required. I was a fan of these, they had a delicate texture with a slightly crunchy coating and weren’t chewy at all. Anna on the other hand was less of a fan, I think the slight chew on the tentacles proved too much texture wise. They were a tad greasy but that’s probably because I had to eat the whole plate.

Holiday lamb!

Last up was the lamb, I think it was probably in their Spanish marinade with a heady smokey mix of paprika, garlic and lemon. It had a nice char on the outside from the plancha, and was medium pink in the middle which is my preference for lamb chops. Smokey-sweet and deliciously tender, they were big chops and hence a good portion as a tapas dish.

Sherry negroniAll in all a good meal, although I felt a slightly lighter hand on the seasoning / lemon might have let the ingredients sing a bit more. Sitting in the sun with an Amontillado Negroni it was easy enough to forgive though. In total it was under £70 with service, 2 sherries, 2 beers and a cocktail. Always reliable and a worthy lighter alternative to Moro.

 
Morito on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Shredded Thai chicken, carrot, noodle and chilli salad with fish sauce marinade

As summer blasts into London with a wave of humid, sticky, sunshine-filled days some of the traditional English dishes can seem, well, a touch heavy. Not that we don’t have our fair share of light dishes, particularly in our modern culinary vernacular, but let’s be honest we don’t get that much sunshine. So why not turn to Eastern Asia and the hot, humid climes of Thailand for some inspiration on the few similar days a year we get.

Firstly, I doubt this is particularly authentic, I’ve mashed up a few different cuisines (and the noodles are definitely Japanese) but I think the intention is clear and recognisable as Thai. It has fresh raw ingredients; a clean fierce heat from chilli; and a salty-sweet-sharp warmth from the fish sauce / sugar / lime marinade. I’m sure you could vary the ingredients endlessly, different cuts of chicken or prawns would work well for the protein and some shredded cabbage wouldn’t go amiss. Even better it’s a super quick recipe, start to finish 30 minutes if you work fast. It came out great and looked somewhat like this:

Healthy chicken noodle salad with fish sauce.

Being targeted as a “healthy” recipe I have poached skinless chicken breasts for pure lean protein but feel free to substitute as you wish if that is a tad puritan for you. It also has quite a fierce heat from 2 red hot chillis and a slight pungency from the fish sauce so adjust to taste. I’ve also made use of the carrot greens which are like a slightly carroty parsley and add some greenery, freshness and colour.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 medium carrots scrubbed (preferably with a handful of the reserved greens)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 8 small radishes
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 2 birds-eye chillies or other hot chilli
  • 2 tablespoons of castor sugar (golden preferably)
  • 1 portion of noodles (I used Udon)
  • 8 leaves of mint if you have any.

Firstly get the chicken poaching, this is a great way to easily get moist healthy chicken. The most fool-proof method I have found is to place the chicken breasts in a pan of cold water that covers them by 1cm or so. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Then turn the heat off, cover the pan and leave for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the breasts. You can chuck some whole star anise / peppercorns in although I always wonder how much this really adds.

In the meanwhile you can prep the marinade, simply mix the lime juice / zest with the fish sauce and sugar, adjust to taste. To prep the salad I used a food processer with the grating attachment. I actually used the finest setting but think I’d recommend the coarser one next time. Grate the carrots / radishes / onion / chillis together and take out any big chunks left over. Mix the combined vegetables with the marinade, add the chopped carrot tops / mint if using and combine well.

Once your chicken is nearly ready, cook the noodles (try not to overcook them to avoid them being mushy). Drain and rinse well and mix in with the salad. Your chicken should be ready now, drain, shred with your hands and combine everything. Check for seasoning, adjust if needed with salt or fish sauce and serve. Feel healthy.

Elgin Street Diner – Poutine for breakfast!

It’s Canada day and I’m located in Ottawa, a city that wholeheartedly embraces the spirit and festivities of the day. Before downtown becomes a heaving mass of red-swaddled patriotic Canadians we thought we’d indulge in a hearty breakfast to keep us going throughout the day (and absorb any pre-lunch refreshments as if such things could possibly happen). Hearty breakfast=diner in my book. So I was led on a merry walk down Elgin Street by my Canadian compatriots to find the very aptly named Elgin Street Diner . Everything you want in a diner, with big portions of tasty (if not healthy) food served all day (and night) from a pretty unassuming interior.

I’ll admit right now that although I wanted a hefty breakfast, I didn’t necessarily want to be in a food-induced coma for the next 3hrs, I’ve never had an enormous appetite in the morning. So whilst the Blue Plate special sounded great (imagine a giant full English with a side of Poutine) I thought I’d go for something a tad lighter and more unusual. French toast sounded great, with a side of Peameal bacon (apparently a thicker cut, imagine a long slice of English back bacon rather than American bacon) and topped with loads of whipped butter and maple syrup of course. Oh, and a side of beans.

Breakfast is served!Which ended up looking a little like this! Certainly a generous portion but just able manageable. The French toast was pretty thickly cut however and a touch heavy. The bacon was great, thick-cut and properly meaty. And who can resist the salty-sweet-savoury mix of fried meat, eggs, bread and maple syrup. The butter was an indulgence but I liberally spread it on still. The beans, whilst out-of-place, get a mention for being deliciously tangy and smoky as an after-meal snack. As to the person next to me who ordered this plus a side of smoked-meat poutine, I salute you (and the generous offer of a few gravy soaked chips which were great) but wouldn’t have the stomach for a whole plate.

 

Elgin Street Diner on Urbanspoon

Montreal Coffee – Café Différance

As well as food and beer, coffee has quickly become another obsession for me. Fuelled by a trip to Melbourne a few years ago (the Flat White habit is hard to kick) I’ve sought out coffee in London and become fairly skilled with my Rancilio machine and Baratza grinder. Whilst good coffee is a great treat, it is definitely an art and once you’ve had a few good ones the bad and downright awful excuses for coffee that are sold by most other places become pretty unbearable. In which case I wholeheartedly admit I am a coffee snob.

So finding myself in Montreal for a morning, a city noted in the guidebooks for its coffee, I set off on a random mission to find some. And I most certainly was not disappointed. Starting off at a small chain place I was served a perfectly acceptable macchiato, but then on the way I stumbled past Café Différance and could smell the beans from outside.

Nice foam art!I wish I’d come here first, but hey-ho. I dropped in for another macchiato since I couldn’t resist. Attempting to order in French was amusing, particularly as the server then turned to her colleague and spoke English. But I could see from expert jiggling of the grinds in the portafilter and the twist of the tamper this was going to be good. Quite a dark roast compared to the slightly more modern beans in the UK, but deliciously rich and balanced, with a perfect bit of foam and even some great foam art. This gave me the kick I needed for the bus to Ottawa.

 

Café Différance on Urbanspoon

Nova Scotia lobster rolls

I’ve been away for the past week relaxing by a lake in Ottawa, Canada. It was for a friend’s wedding, very chilled with lots of BBQing (some satay chicken thigh skewers went down very well) and dipping in the lake. There were a couple of other food highlights though, the first being a fresh lobster roll from the Nova Scotia food company.

The Nova Scotia Eatery

Picture the scene, it’s Canada day and seemingly all of Ottawa has descended on the city to watch the celebrations. We’ve seen the snowbirds fly past Parliament and then escaped the crowds at an outdoor table of a local bar. Copious quantities of beer has been consumed and we see this hallowed sign on a truck on your way back. A simple exchange of $8 gave me this little beauty:

Fresh!Fresh, sweet, salty lobster meat combined with a light mayonnaise and a scattering of chives, atop a light brioche split bun. Not hugely loaded I’ll admit but an amazing snack all the same, I could have had 2 or 3 more if everyone wasn’t waiting for me. It’s a shame we don’t see more of our own native shellfish in this country bar high end places (or exceedingly close to the coast), I suppose the cost would be prohibitive. Burger&Lobster is obviously attempting something similar, albeit with Maine lobsters still. I have seen mackerel burgers at quite a few food stands recently, perhaps those are our closest UK equivalent to a fish based roll?