Posts Tagged ‘prawn’

Singapore GP – Laksa

September 30, 2011

Sunday was the Singapore GP and for the first time I have had difficulty deciding what to cook.  The cuisine of Singapore is a mixture of Malay, Chinese and Indian all cooked with their own local twist, but I struggled to find a dish that was native to Singapore (please let me know if you have a suggestion for a dish that is!).  In the end I settled on cooking Laksa because it’s really popular!

Laksa is a noodle curry/soup that comes in many variations.  As a fusion of Chinese and Malay styles of cooking it is a regular street food in Singapore.  I decided to create my own prawn and chicken version inspired by the recipes I found on the internet.

The first thing I needed to make was my paste.  For this I needed 5cm of fresh ginger, 3 shallots, 1 clove of garlic, 3 macadamia nuts, 1 red chilli, half a bunch of coriander and ¼ teaspoon of turmeric (as usual this is for 2).  All this went into my mini chopper with a little water and was blitzed to form a paste.  My mini chopper isn’t the best in the world and although everything came out very small, it wasn’t really paste like.  I decided to try and fix this by pounding it in my pestle and mortar but this didn’t really make much of a different either.

Making the Paste

With the paste as ready as it was ever going to be, I got on with preparing the rest of my ingredients.  I defrosted my prawns and took the meat off two chicken thighs.  The skin, bones and other assorted bit’s of the chicken were browned in a pan and then covered with 200ml of water to form a stock that would later go in my sauce.  I then sliced up two (rather large) spring onions, fished 50g of beansprouts out of the jar (I couldn’t get fresh) and I was ready to cook.

Preparing the chicken and making stock

The first thing to do was to cook my paste.  It went into a thick bottomed pan with some groundnut oil and cooked gently for 10 minutes.  I then drained my chicken stock and added this to the pan to create the beginnings of the sauce/soup.  This was allowed to simmer for another 7-8 minutes before I added the final bit of the sauce – 200ml of coconut milk.  The soup/sauce was then left on a gentle heat while I cooked everything else.

Making the sauce/soup

I started cooking the chicken in a pan and after a couple of minutes added the spring onions.  Two more minutes and it was time for the beansprouts to go in as well.  Finally, with everything else nearly done I added the prawn.  While the meat and veg were cooking I also cooked my noodles.  I had been unable to find rice noodles as suggested by the recipes I had found and had to settle for soya noodles, something I hadn’t used before.  These cooked in a couple of minutes and looked quite gelatinous!Cooking the other bits!

With everything cooked I assembled my dish.  In two bowls I placed some of the noodles and then topped them with the meat and veg.  The sauce/soup was then ladled on top and everything was ready.

Assembling the dish

I haven’t ever eaten Laksa so I have no idea how authentic mine tasted, however I really enjoyed it.  There as a nice warm hit of chilli that was strong without being overpowering.  The whole dish was fragrant and very light.  The coconut made it rich and creamy and took away any harshness that could have come from the chilli or the ginger.  I had my reservations about the noodles I used when I saw them cooked, but with the sauce they were delicious.  This is defiantly something I would make again; I think I might try it when I have guests sometime as a lot of it can be prepared ahead and you can pull the dish together in about 5 minutes when people are ready to eat.

As for the race, well, the result was never in doubt. A shining blue and red car owned by a certain energy drinks company had blitzed the field in qualifying, and the rapidly maturing Vettel barely saw the rest of the race as he took a unchallengeable lights to flag victory. Mathematically the German  had the chance of wrapping up his championship for the second year in a row at this race. But it wasn’t to be as the rest of the field conspired to make sure the contest was dragged out to at least the race in Japan.

However, like any race with twenty four high speed participants, there was plenty to keep the audience attention. Michael Schumacher, decided that he obviously preferred flying to driving that day, attempted to launch his appropriately named silver arrow off the back of the unwilling Sergie Perez  in an effort, moth like, to reach the lights surrounding the track of this night race. Failing this, he merely smashed the car against the barriers. Not an overtake the old master will ever be proud off.

Lewis Hamilton, seeing red in the form of Felipe Massa’s scarlet Ferrari, then smashed off his front wing against the rear right hand tyre of the other car. Having returned to the pits to have a new nose fitted by his mechanics, he then returned once more to serve a penalty metted out by the stewards. His Maclaren, having started the day 4th, ended up in 15th and was only helped by the safety car being deployed for Schumacher’s crash landing. He recovered, slicing his way through the field, to a respectable fifth, one place down from where he started.

Jenson Button, finding the Maclaren the second quickest car in the field, drove a lonely race against Vettel whom he only saw vanishing around corners ahead of him. After holding his position at the start, tyre choice allowed him to maintain this and his consistent lap times led him to a well deserved second place, his second of two races. The pressure is now one at Maclaren for Hamilton to prove he is still their best driver.

Asian Style Prawn and Noodle Soup

January 31, 2011

Having eaten rather a lot before and over Christmas, and throughout January (it’s been so cold, I needed a lot of fuel to keep warm!) I’ve ended up with there being a little more of me that I would usually prefer.   Having let this go for a little while (about 7 weeks) I finally decided it was time to start looking at healthy meal options.  Rooting through my rather full freezer I came across some prawns that I had bought reduced several months ago and forgotten about.

The prawns were shell on and raw and I thought they would be perfect to make an Asian style broth and with the shells used to make the stock for the soup.  I have to confess that as much as I love cooking there are quite a basic few things that I have never tried and making stock is one of them.  I knew the principles, I had watched it done on the TV and by my mum, but when it came to doing the cooking myself I always reached for the good old oxo cube.

To start my first ever stock I roughly chopped a small onion and a couple of sticks of celery (I only had one carrot and so I saved this for the soup itself) and fried them in some toasted sesame oil.  When these started to brown I added my raw whole prawns and cooked these through.

Frying off the onion, celery and prawns

I didn’t want the prawns overcooking so as soon as they had turned pink I fished them out of the pan and placed them in the fridge to cool down a little.  I then added a litre of boiling water to my hot pan and vegetables.  The water lifted all the flavour from the bottom of the pan and looked pretty stocky straight away which gave me a bit of confidence.  I turned the heat right down and put a lid on the pot.

Adding the water to make stock

After about 10 minutes my prawns had cooled enough to be handled and so I removed the heads, tails and shell, all of which went into the stock.  I deveined the flesh and put the prawns back in the fridge.  I left the shells etc in the simmering stock for about 15 minutes before straining everything out.

Adding the shells to the stock and then straining 15 minutes later

I then cleaned out the pan and started work on the soup itself frying off 1tsp of ginger paste, a good squirt of garlic puree and 1 tsp of chopped chilli in some more toasted sesame oil.   Onto the vegetables, I added my lonely carrot (sliced) and about 4 mushrooms (also sliced).

Frying my spices and vegtables

Next to go in the pan was the stock which once again lifted everything from the bottom of the pan.  I cooked everything for a little bit longer and the liquid started to froth a bit.  I did my best to scrape it from the top, but this proved quite difficult given the veg floating around and I suspect I probably should have boiled again after I strained it and removed any froth then.   To make the soup a bit more filling I added a bundle of soba noodles.  These didn’t need to be precooked and so went straight into the soup.

Adding the noddles to my rather frothy soup

The noodles were cooked in about 2 minutes and so I quickly finished the soup with a few big handfuls of spinach and the prawns.  After the spinach was wilted and the prawns warmed through it was time to serve up.

Finally adding the spinach and the prawns and then serving up, minus as much froth as possible!

Overall I was pretty pleased with the soup.  The fish flavour was pretty strong but the garlic, ginger and chilli came through as well.  For such a thin soup it actually kept me full for quite a while and the gently spicy heat warmed me up a treat.  I think I probably have a long way to go with my stock making, particularly in relation to removing or preventing a frothy scum from forming and making it to the final dish.  It was a lot of effort to actually make the stock and I don’t think it will become a regular thing for me to do (the sales of oxo are safe!) but I would definitely give it a go again and I can see how you get much more depth of flavour making the stock from scratch.

Moksh Cardiff bay – An award winning curry

December 3, 2010

As part of the celebrations for getting my new job I went out for a meal with my family to the Moksh restaurant in Cardiff Bay.  I had wanted to visit the place for a while, having heard good things about it and smelt the wonderful fragrances while walking past.  The chef and owner, Stephen Gomez, is from Goa and has was won several awards in recent years including Chef of The Year 06/07 and Best UK Curry, amongst others. He proudly displays these along with articles and reviews in a glass case outside of the restaurant.  Given the all the above I had high hopes for this meal!

The restaurant itself is quite small, maybe 30 covers.  It was fairly loud and busy, with quite a modern funky feel with lots of coloured light.  We were lucky enough to be sat at one end, in a small alcove with a Buddha spray painted on the wall.  As the other tables in there remained untaken, this felt like having our own private room. It was great as we were away from the bustle in the rest of the restaurant.

The funky Buddha

The menu has a huge range of choice, and being a first time visitor I found it a bit overwhelming. If only their website was up and running I could have browsed the menu at my leisure! So not entirely knowing where to start, and with this being a celebration, we all eventually decided to go for the Chefs Taster Menu.

This was a four course feast priced at £28 a head, pretty good value as starters are between £3-5 and mains £12 – 14 plus rice.  The exact content of the taster menu was not written down, and although it was explained to us before we started,  I struggled to remember it all.  Luckily everything was explained again as it was served so we knew what we were eating.

First up was the selection of starters.  There were three: A cheese, onion and spinach samosa, an aloo tikki potato cake and a lamb shammi kebab.  The presentation of these was unlike anything I have seen before. The samosa was upright on its own stand and a spring of lamb’s lettuce was stuck in the top of the shammi kebab.  This was not bad, just unusual!

My Starters: Aloo Tikki, Samosa and Lamb Shammi Kebab

Everything tasted great.  The aloo tikki and kebab were fragrant and subtly spiced, the meat in the kebab was extremely finely ground and the samosa was crisp and tasty.  I was really impressed with the flavours.  Also, considering that all three items had most likely been deep fried they were all remarkably light and non greasy.

The next course was our kebabs from the tandoor.  Each of us was presented with a plate with a freestanding skewer containing chicken, beef and a king prawn.

The Kebab

This was visually very impressive; however it was much easier to eat if you shifted the freestanding skewer out of the way once you’d removed the food!  The meat itself was lovely.   Everything was coated in an aromatic paste of spices which, although hot, was tasty and did not overpower the dish.  The chicken was moist, the beef had a deep earthy flavour and the prawn was soft. This well cooked prawn was my favourite of the three kebabs.

After a little breather it was now time for the main course!  This consisted of four pots of curry each with a selection of plain, garlic and keema nann, and plenty of pilau rice.  The curries were Chicken Szechwan, Lamb Navarin Bhuna, Malabar King Prawn Curry and Tarka Dal.

Lots and Lots of Mains!

The chicken Szechwan is an Indian take on the Chinese dish.  This was quite different to the other curries and it certainly packed a punch.  There was less sauce with this as it had chunkier veg and chilli pieces.  The Lamb Navarin Bhuna is another interesting cultural blend, being Moskh’s take on the French classic.  The meat was very tender and rich and although I failed to spot the French influence/flavours it was very tasty and a lovely medium curry.  The Tarka dal proved slightly divisive with the girls enjoying it and the boys not so sure. I think this had more to do with the lentils themselves rather than the way in which they had been cooked.  My favourite of the four dishes was the Malabar King Prawn Curry.  This had a slight sweet fruitiness to it which came from the coconut milk and moderate spicing.

Clockwise from top left: Tarka Dal, Lamb Navarin Bhuna, Malabar King Prawn Curry and Chicken Szechwan

Of the accompaniments, the rice was rice, nothing more, nothing less. There was however a huge amount of the stuff!  The nann breads were lovely, the garlic nann was smothered in garlic butter and delicious.  The keema contained one large piece of (processed) meat rather than the mince I’ve usually seen which was meant you got plenty of meat with every bite.

The service was leisurely which suited the style of meal.  You had plenty of time to consume and digest one course before the next was served.   Despite these long pauses by the time desserts came around I was still very full!  For dessert we had two mini chocolate ginger cakes and two mini cheesecakes which we shared between the four of use.

The desserts

Both desserts were interesting, but very small and not quite up to the standard of the rest of the food. But having already eaten so much I wasn’t too bothered by this.  The final thing to be served just before we left were some Welsh cakes, which struck me as odd in an Indian restaurant, even if it is in Wales!

The Welsh cakes

These were again nice enough, but did leave me with the feeling that perhaps desserts were not this restaurants strong point!

My only real complaint came when the waiters started to mention that their card machine was “not always working”.   When we came to and explained that we needed to use the card they were quite insistent that the machine would not work and that we should visit a cash point nearby without trying the machine.  However when we also insisted and did try the machine it miraculously worked first time!

Although I had really enjoyed the food and the evening, the farce with the card machine did spoil things a little. It would also make me think twice about recommending the restaurant to someone.  However, I’ve never heard similar complaints, so I hope that this was a one off!

Overall I thought the food was great, it was nice to see attempts to create fusion dishes (even if I could not have guessed some without being told!).  I think a lot of the food was innovative, well executed and well presented.  Now, having tried the chef’s selection I fancy trying some of the other dishes on the menu such as the Lamb with Gunpowder and the Goan Fish Curry.

A lovely meal out with work at the Laguna Restaurant

November 19, 2010

Last week my department held a two day off site retreat at the Park Plaza Cardiff (not very far for me to travel I know :-p), and apart from two days out of the office the thing that excited me most was the prospect of eating in the hotels Laguna Restaurant.  I had been there previously as part of a day spa package at the hotel and really enjoyed the food and so was eager to try it again.

The restaurant is situated at the back of the hotel and overlooks the greenery of the old canal feeder and Cardiff’s civic centre.  It was very spacious and light with a high ceiling and modern feel. There’s a terrace for the summer days (and smokers), but what with it being November and rather chilly, we ate indoors.  This being a work event I didn’t have the nerve to bring along camera to capture the food and so, inspired by Ailbhe Phelan’s magnificent drawings on her Simply Splendiferous blog, I have attempted to recreate the meal through the medium of coloured pencil (unfortunately falling far short of her own skilled artistry).

The meal began with warm bread rolls.  Olive triangles, mini French loafs and rye buns were on offer and bowls of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were provided for dipping which proved to be a nice, lighter alternative to butter.  I had an olive triangle the first day and a rye bun the second.  Both were delicious and wonderfully soft, a lovely nibble while we waited for our starters.  Our meals were to be two courses, and the menu provided plenty of option with four starters, two “large or small” options you could choose as either starters or mains and four main choices.  There was also the option of dessert, but I ended up keeping it savoury both days.

The first day I went for a starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail which was served with granary bloomer bread and half a lemon wrapped in muslin to catch the pips.  The plate looked extremely elegant and appealing and I thought the lemon in muslin was a great touch.  The cocktail itself was succulent and full of flavour.  The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the rose marie has quite a kick in it which really lifted the dish.

My starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail

My main of seared salmon with squash sage and chilli risotto

For my main I chose the seared fillet of salmon which was accompanied by a squash, sage and chilli risotto.  The portion was enormous, a huge of fillet salmon with crisp skin and lovely soft flesh and a supreme quantity of autumnal orange risotto.  The sweetness of the squash was complemented by the sage and the subtle chilli heat which was much milder than that in the starter.  The combination of rich creamy risotto (I suspect there may have been a fair quantity of cream and butter involved!) and oily salmon was delicious, but far too much for lunchtime and I must admit to being unable to finish it all.

Having enjoyed my lunch so much on the first day I was excited to go to see what was on offer on the second.  About half the menu was the same as the first day, but there was still plenty I wanted to try from both the old and the new selections.  This time I went for a starter of seared spiced salmon with asian salad and pesto.  This was once again the picture of elegance, presented in clean straight lines.  I can’t say that I’m familiar with the concept of asian pesto, and on tasting it I would have to just say that it was just a mix of coriander and garlic.  Tasty, pretty, but not overly inspiring.  The tuna though was nicely flavoured and the salad had a great variety of flavour colour and textures including lambs lettuce, radish, carrot and sesame seeds.

My starter of seared spiced salmon salad with asian pesto

My main of confit belly pork apple sage risotto

For my main I decided to go for a risotto again (repetitive I know!).  This time I had a confit belly pork, sage and apple risotto from the “small or large” section.  Once again this was exceptionally rich and I dread to think juts how much dairy (and fat!) was involved.  The pork had been flaked so thst little nuggets of flavour were speckled throughout the dish as well as some large chunks of sweet red apple.  Overall this dish was rich, sweet and decadent.  This time I had eaten less for breakfast in preparation and was able to finish it all, but only just.

Overall I was impressed with the restaurant and I think I’ll be going back again.  The quality of the food was excellent and although the service was relaxed it wasn’t too slow.  It’s not too expensive either (£16.50 for a 3 course pre-theatre menu).  I wouldn’t normally consider the restaurant of a hotel chain when planning a meal out, but Laguna is a great lunch or early evening destination in a great city centre location.

Zushi

August 16, 2010

Our stack of plates!

My partner and I love sushi – in fact our first date was at a sushi restaurant, something that filled me with fear into me due to my inability to consume sushi with any kind of elegance.  Luckily my inelegance wasn’t a problem and so for a recent special occasion we decided to go to Zushi in Cardiff.  The restaurant is an independent sushi and noodle bar located on the ground floor of what used to be the AA building and is now a block of stylish city flats at the end of Queen Street.

The interior is clean and modern (as is to be expected form a Japanese restaurant!) with the chefs working on their creations in the middle and the conveyor (the first in Cardiff, but we now have a Yo Sushi) transporting them around the restaurant.  You can sit either at the conveyor or in a series of booths, we choose a booth, and the plates range in price from £1.70 for the basic hosomaki and salads up to £3.70 for some of the Sashimi and more elaborate/exotic creations.  The menu can be found here and has a pretty good range and there were also things on the conveyor which didn’t feature on the menu at all.

Salmon Sashimi

In addition to sushi they offer a selection of Ramen, Noodle and hot dishes which read like a mini Wagamamas menu.  We didn’t try these, but I think I would go back sometime to give them a go and see how they compare.

With the opening of Yo Sushi in St David’s 2 Zushi now has some competition.  As a result they have introduced some good value lunch and evening offers.   The evening offer is £13.99 for all the sushi you can eat from the conveyor and also includes miso soup, coffee and ice cream if you want.  Before arriving I was a bit sceptical that this would mean a small selection of low price plates travelling by and I was prepared to have to ask and pay for some pricier items.  Turns out I was wrong.  There was a great selection of plates of all colours, and there was certainly no shortage.  Plenty of hot and cold, meat and fish dishes as well as salads and even desserts.

The sushi was of a high quality and I had no complaints about what we ate (and we ate plenty!).  My only issue at all would be that the restaurant was fairly busy (not a problem for them!) and so occasionally things were all taken before they reached us, but this is just the peril of a conveyor system.  Disappointment at someone having eaten the tuna I had my eye on aside, this was a great deal.  The eat as much as you want (what a great challenge!) meant we could relax and gorge ourselves without having to be scared that we would need a loan to cove the bill, a serious consideration with some other sushi restaurants I’ve visited – it’s so easy to get carried away!

So to sum up; a great restaurant, a really good offer and an enjoyable evening out.  Well worth a visit if you like sushi, especially if you don’t want to spend too much.