Pork Shiso Parcels

2 Jun

Shiso or Perilla is a fragrant leafy herb commonly grown in East Asia and is used particularly in Japanese and Korean cooking. The leaves are large and make a wonderful material to use as a wrapping for delicate meats or vegetables. These are stuffed with a pork and rice mixture seasoned with Asian flavours of ginger, garlic, sesame and soy but you could use tofu as a vegetarian version.Pork wrapped in Shiso Leaves

Shiso LeavesIMGP1217


  • minced pork
  • cooked rice
  • egg
  • crushed garlic
  • grated ginger
  • green onion or chinese chives
  • a dash each of: sesame oil, soy sauce and fish sauce (optional).

Mix 2 parts pork to 1 part rice with a hint of garlic, ginger and green onion, add the wet ingredients and mix really well. Add a little beaten egg to bind. Take large shiso leaves one at a time, lay on a board with the pointed end away from you . Lay a small spoonful of mixture about 1/3 of the way in the thick part of the leaf. Fold in the sides then once over from the front then flip over onto the pointed end. Cook by frying in an oiled skillet or brush with oil and grill. They can also be cooked over a fire or barbecue.

Serve with a simple dipping sauce of soy sauce and rice vinegar, add a hint of chilli if you want some heat.

Garden Note   Perilla frutescens var crispa  A Tender Self-Seeding leafy herb also known as Shiso or beefsteak plant.  Perilla is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which includes many strong aromatic herbs including; mint, basil, rosemary, lavender, Melissa, marjoram and sage. This tender bushy herb is grown for its aromatic leaves, flower buds and seeds. Used extensively in East Asia as a vegetable and as a herb, most famously the red variety is used to colour pickled ginger. It makes a great addition to a kitchen or herb garden and when the leaves are large enough great as a wrapping for grilled or deep-fried foods.

Green Beans with sesame Dressing

2 Jun

This is one of the most simple yet delicious cooked vegetable salads you can make. It is part of an immense repertoire of lightly cooked vegetables or ‘salads’ in Japanese cuisine and one of my favourite ways of eating green beans. This salad is best served at room temperature so it can be made in advance and keeps or travels well, so great for picnics or dinner with friends. Serve as a side to rice and grilled fish or with a number of small salads.

  • 250g  green beans
  • 1-2 tbsp tamari or light soy sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan or skillet until golden brown, leave to cool then lightly crush, in a pestle and mortar, to release their flavour. Pinch off the growing end from the beans and pop into a pan of boiling water for a few minutes until the beans turn bright green and a little soft but still crisp then plunge into cold water to halt cooking and preserve their colour. Toss the beans with the soy and sesame and arrange in a serving dish. Serve at room temperature.

Cooks Note This dish can be made in advance and the salad will keep very well for a day so great for picnics or a packed lunch.

Runner Beans in Tomatoes

22 Aug

This little dish of runner or green beans gently stewed in oil and tomatoes has long been a favourite of mine. Its origins are probably Turkish or Greek. I remember eating several variations of it in Istanbul and in Greece many years ago. Like so many Mediterranean dishes it has few ingredients but the finished result is miraculously full of flavour. Serve as a side dish or part of a mezze spread or picnic.

Serves 2 Prep & Cook 30 minutes

  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 150g Runner or Green beans, stalks removed
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato concentrate
  • 4-5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a sauce pan, throw in the onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes then add the beans and tomato. Season and stir over a high heat to coat well. Reduce heat, cover and let the beans stew in the oily tomato sauce for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom, if it does add a little more oil or water. Serve as part of a mezze or as a side dish.

COOK’S TIP To freeze French beans; wash, top and tail and plunge into boiling salted water. I use a pasta pan with a removable drainer, which makes the job much easier. As soon as the beans turn a brighter darker shade of green (3-4 minutes) drain and plunge into ice-cold water to halt cooking and preserve the colour. When cool, drain well, bag up and freeze immediately.
Gardeners Note Great for gluts of beans and tomatoes in summer but it can also be made at any time of year with frozen beans and preserved tomatoes.

Green Bean and Coconut Fry

21 Aug

This is a delicious Indian style vegetable dish. Quickly fried with fragrant subtle spices and coconut to preserve the fresh taste of green beans. Great with dals and rice.

  • Green beans trimmed and cut into short lengths
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1-2 dried red chilis
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 3-4 tbsp grated fresh coconut
  • 1 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced
  • lemon juice to taste
  • salt

If you have one use a wok or a large wide pan. Heat a little vegetable oil and when hot throw in the dried chilli and cumin stir around until the chilli starts to darken then add the fennel and fenugreek. Don’t let the fenugreek brown or it will become bitter so quickly add the prepared beans. Stir fry until the beans turn bright green then add the coconut and green chilli cook for a minute or 2 longer but make sure not to over cook the beans. The dish will taste superb if you use fresh coconut but the dried desiccated stuff will give a good result particularly if soaked in a little water first and will need a little longer cooking. Season and sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately.

Variations You can substitute runner beans, long beans or flat beans and this recipe works well with peas, asparagus and courgettes.

Coconut Dal (spicy lentils)

20 Aug

A simple soupy lentil dal flavoured with coconut milk, chilli, garlic and curry leaves. I love all kinds of dal or dhal and this one is a particular favourite with a soft rounded flavour sweet with coconut and warming subtle spices. Serve with rice or Indian breads such as chapati, some pickles and a dry meat or vegetable curry.

  • 1 cup split hulled orange lentils
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 green chilli
  • 4 cups water

Wash the lentils and cook in a roomy pan with the turmeric chilli and water. When the lentils are soft, about 30-40 mins, add coconut milk and season to taste.

final fry

  • 1 tbsp veg oil
  • Half an onion
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 3 small hot dred red chillis or sliced large ones
  • 2-3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 12 curry leaves

In a small frying pan heat some vegetable oil or ghee and throw in the onion when it begins to colour add the garlic and when it starts to colour finally throw in the dry chillis and curry leaves fry for a minute then pour the hot oil and spices into the lentils, stir quickly, cover and let the flavours infuse before serving. Stir in a handful of fresh coriander leaf and serve scattered with a little extra fresh coriander leaf or shavings of fresh coconut.

Chicken & Cherry Tomato Balti

20 Aug

This is a delicious quick chicken curry; sweet, sour and aromatic full of flavour but not too hot. Chicken breast is marinated in a mixture of sour tamarind, sweet tomato, sesame seeds and coconut then cooked quickly in a karhi or hot wok with some wonderful aromatic Indian spices and fresh cherry tomatoes. Serve with rice for a simple family meal or with breads, raita and a potato or vegetable side dish for a great dinner party.

  • 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
  • 4 tbsp tomato passata or 4- 6  tomatoes crushed and pushed through a sieve
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp chilli powder or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp ginger paste or grated ginger
  • 2 tsp garlic paste or crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin, roasted and ground
  • 1.5 tsp coriander, ground
  • 1 lb chicken, thigh or breast meat
  • 5 tbsp veg oil
  • 25 curry leaves
  • ½ tsp nigella seeds
  • 2-3 cardamom pods
  • 3 large dried chillis
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seed
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp fresh coriander
  • 2 fresh green chillis, sliced

Put the tomato passata and tamarind in a bowl along with the chilli powder, salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, coconut, sesame seeds, cumin and coriander. Stir well then add the chicken cut into bit size pieces stir well to coat then set aside. (at this point you could leave the dish in the fridge until it is time to eat so it is a great one to prepare in advance for dinner with friends so that you can concentrate on them and not cooking). Heat oil in a wide pan or wok and when hot add the curry leaves, nigella seed, dried chillies, and cardamom a few seconds later add the fenugreek seeds and fry until aroma rises. Lower heat and gently add the chicken along with the sauce, stir well and simmer gently for 12-15 mins. Add the fresh tomatoes and green chillies cook for 3 mins or until the cherry tomatoes begin to burst then add the coriander stir and serve.

Source  This recipe originally came from a book called  The Definitive Cook’s Collection of Indian Recipes by Shehzad Husain and Rafi Fernandez  that my um bought for Rachel. I liked the idea of up front prep then fast cooking method so have adapted it over the years. NB original recipe called for 4 tbsp tomato ketchup but I could not bear to use it myself, so I use pasatta or pureed fresh tomatoes.

Fried Rice (Indonesian)

14 Aug

In Indonesia this dish would be called Nasi Goreng. It is one of the most popular family or street foods, almost a national dish, often eaten for breakfast, made from left-overs from the night before and found on most Indonesian or malay restaurant menues in the west. The Chinese brought their fried rice dishes to Indonesia, where they adapted to local tastes; the Indonesians cook this dish in woks but it tends to be spicier and flavoured by their sweet sticky Kecap Manis. This is a great dish, adaptable to whatever you have available, and can be made with meat, shellfish, poultry, offal or kept clean and simple with no animal products at all. The only essential ingredient is cold cooked rice making it a useful way to use left-overs and an easy to prepare breakfast or delicious packed lunch.

  • Cold cooked long grain rice
  • green or spring onions
  • garlic
  • Seasoning Ketjap Manis (a sweet soy sauce and speciality of Indonesia)
  • vegetable use whatever is in season, green beans, long beans, runner beans, asparagus, chinese greens, peppers, carrots, fennel, corn, peas, mushrooms
  • protein you can use fried tofu, peanuts, chicken, prawn, pork or sausage.
  • Additional flavouring use dried prawns whole or powdered or prawn paste.

Toppings Serve with fresh vegetables such as; cucumber, cherry tomatoes, peppers or green onions and comdiments such as crispy fried onions and sambal olek (chilli paste), you can also serve topped with shredded egg omelet or hard boiled eggs.


Cooks Note If you don’t have Katjap Mannis you can make a similar product by mixing soy sauce with sugar, and a little miso paste, garlic and chinese 5 spice) or just use soy sauce and a little sugar.

Chicken Dumpling Soup (Thai)

22 May

Chicken and rice dumplings simmered in a spicy coconut broth with vegetables.

I came up with this recipe when I wanted to make  Tom Kha Gai or chicken in coconut soup but I did not have enough chicken to feed everyone so I used rice to mix with the chicken and make tasty dumplings instead.  Delicious!

For the dumplings

  • 1 cup cooked cold white rice
  • 1 chicken breast
  • fresh coriander
  • 1 clove garlic
  • garlic chives or spring/green onions
  • a splash of fish sauce
  • a splash of soy sauce or pinch of salt
  • pinch freshly ground white or black pepper
  • 1 red or green chilli minced (optional)
  • 1 egg white
Bung the whole lot in a food process and pulse or finely mince all the ingredients together. Take a heaped tsp at a time, shape into balls then drop into the hot broth gently. The dumplings will rise to the surface when cooked, in about 5-7 minutes.
For the soup broth
  • chicken stock
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • red chilli sliced
  • sliced galangal
  • 1 stalk lemon grass
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
Put the ingredients for the soup broth into a roomy pan and bring to a simmer, drop the dumplings in to cook. After 5 minutes or so add some green vegetables. As soon as the vegetables are just cooked the soup is ready to serve. Check the seasoning and add a dash of fish sauce and / or a squeeze of lime to taste, ladle into bowls and scatter with a bit of fresh coriander, a few slices of red chilli or sliced spring onions.
Vegetables Use any green vegetables for colour and flavour such as green beans, runner beans, asparagus, garden peas, broccoli, mangetout peas, cabbage or pak choi
Noodles I sometimes serve this soup over noodles to make more of a meal of it. It is best to cook the noodles seperately to ensure that they don’t get over cooked any kind of oriental noodle works well, soba, vermicelli, yellow wheat noodles or big fat rice noodles. Just put a serving into each bowl and ladle the soup over them.
Tip To make your own stock simmer chicken bones with an onion, galangal, lemongrass and a few peppercorns.

Crunchy Breakfast Cereal

22 May

My friend Diana gave me a jar of carob molasses to see if i could find a use for it. I love trying out new ingredients and seeing what can be made with them and the runny carob molasses made a most delicious crunchy breakfast cereal or granola. This is a super healthy start to the day; packed with vitamin and mineral rich seeds, nuts and dried fruit as well as slow burn carbs so keeps you going right through till lunch.

  • 500g organic jumbo rolled oats
  • 1.5 – 2 cups of seeds such as sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, linseed and sesame seed
  • 1 cup of nuts almonds, brazil or hazelnuts
  • 4 tbsp runny carob molasses or honey
  • 1 cup dried fruit such as apricots, figs and dates
Mix the oats, seeds and nuts in a large bowl. Drizzle in the molasses or honey and mix well until all the dry ingredients have been coated in the sweet stuff. Spread out on a baking tray (2 trays for this quantity) and bake in a low oven 150c for 20-30 minutes. Take it out at the half way point and give a good stir to make sure the cereal is cooking evenly. Towards the end of cooking keep an eye on it as you don’t want the oats or nuts to burn, which will give it a horrible taste. While it is cooking chop the dried fruit into bite sized bits. Remove from the oven, give it another good stir and leave to cool for a few minutes then stir in the chopped fruit. As the cereal cools the toasted oats and nuts will crisp up. When completely cool and crisp decant into an airtight tin or jar. The granola keeps well for several months.
Variations for an exotic version add dried pineapple, cashews and ribbons of coconut. The next batch I make I will try using rolled barley flakes.

Note 1 cup = 8 tbsp. This quantity makes about 30 portions. Cooking times may vary according to your oven.

Cauliflower with Lentils

1 May

This is a delicious way of cooking cauliflower in a sauce of spiced lentils known as dal or dhal in Southern Asia. The combination is subtle, savory and wonderful. You can add nuts for protein to make this a complete meal or serve as a side for a meat dish or with any number of vegetable dishes for a vegetarian feast.

Make a batch of basic dhal

  • 1 cup red hulled split lentils
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 large green chillis
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seed (optional)

Wash the lentils then put into a roomy pan with the rest of the ingredients. Cook for 30minutes or until the lentils are soft.

  • Half a cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel, nigella or cumin seed
  • 1 black cardamom pod (optional)
  • 1-2 dried red chillis
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced (optional)
  • pinch asefetida (devil’s dung)
  • a small piece of ginger grated (optional)
  • 1 thinly sliced fresh green chilli (optional)

Cut the cauliflower into bite size florets. Remove the green chilli from the dal and add the cauliflower, cover and simmer slowly, meanwhile…

In a small pan or skillet heat the oil then throw in the first 5 spices, when they pop add the garlic and as soon as it starts to brown add the asefetida and pour straight into the lentils and cauliflower, stir and continue to cook until the cauliflower is just tender but still has a fresh tasting bite. Stir in a little more fresh green chilli and ginger, if using, and some fresh coriander leaf if you have any then serve.

Serve with rice or chapatis or a lamb biryani , a grilled meat dish such as masala roast chicken, or a hot meaty curry like Beef Roganjosh or with Bombay potatoes or any number of vegetable dishes such as green bean Coconut Fry  for a vegetarian feast.

Cooks Note Add spices according to your taste, you could add nigella, fennel or cumin seed or indeed all three, use green cardamom instead of black for a more floral taste and use asefetida instead of ginger for a more earthy savory taste and vary the spicing and quantity of chilli depending on what the dish will be served with.