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Colombo Prawn Curry

30 Apr

This is a lovely curry, a little like a Parsi prawn patia, with a hot, sour, aromatic flavour and a touch of sweetness. I have called it colombo prawn curry because the flavouring comes from a spice mix called colombo. Colombo curry powder is common in France where an Indian curry powder like Madras is more common in England. It gets its name from the former capital of Sri Lanka where this mix originated. The spices were brought from Sri Lanka with plantation workers to the French West Indies, particularly Martinique and Guadeloupe. In the French West Indies this spice mix is used to make a stew or curry of meat. Here I make a much simpler and quicker dish using prawns.

Serves 2-3  Prep 5mins cooking 25mins

  • 2-3 tbsp oil, vegetable or corn
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp colombo spice mix (my blend contains: ground cumin, coriander, caraway, fennel, bay leaves, and turmeric).
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 cup water
  • Fresh red chilli sliced or pickled jalapeno peppers to taste
  • 2 big handfuls cooked frozen prawns
Fry the sliced onions in a heavy pan with the oil and a good pinch of cracked black pepper and salt. Cook the onions slowly until they are very soft and starting to brown, this takes about 15 minutes, then add the garlic and tomato purée cook stirring until the aroma rises from the garlic then stir in the curry powder and fry for a minute. It is important to cook the tomato paste like this in order to bring out its sweetness. Add a cup of water and the chilli, as much or as little as you want for your taste and heat tolerance. I like to use hot pickled jalapeno peppers in this recipe as they add an extra sour note. If not using add a little vinegar or some lemon juice at the end. Cook for around 10 minutes keeping an eye on it to make sure the sauce does not catch or get too dry just add a little more water if it does. Cook until the oil separates from the sauce and rises to the top then add the prawns stir a few times and continue to cook for only a minute or two until the prawns are heated through and ready to serve.
Cooks TIP Do not over cook the prawns they need to be only just cooked. This is a good dish to make ahead of time so its great for a dinner party. You can make the sauce and add the prawns at the last moment just before serving or add the prawns and set aside immediately where they will soak up all the flavours of the sauce then heat the dish when you are ready to serve. You can also use raw prawns and cook them in the sauce before serving.
Note Colombo spice blends can vary but tend to contain at least 5 of the following: cumin, coriander, fenugreek, caraway, nutmeg, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, brown mustard, turmeric, bay leaves and cloves. Some recipes also call for ground rice in the mix but that really is just adding bulk and I don’t use it. It does not normally contain chilli powders and is a fairly mild but aromatic curry powder which makes it very versatile in the kitchen. You can buy  Epices Colombo also known as Caribbean Curry Powder or Colombo spice mix easily in France or you can find an online spice retailer such as Seasoned Pioneers  or The Best Possible Taste which deliver worldwide or better still make you own.

Salad Niçoise

8 Sep

I love this classic salad from Southern coastal France; a wonderful combination of cooked potatoes and green beans with fresh summer tomatoes and lettuce topped with seared tuna and olives. This is what the French call a salad composé, each diner is presented with a plate on which all the ingredients have been layered or composed ready to tuck in.

Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until only just tender, then drain and set aside to cool. Cut the beans into bite size pieces and boil in salted water for 5-6 minutes or until the beans are only just cooked  drain and give them a little splash of olive oil, toss and set aside.

Meanwhile season a tuna steak with sea salt and cracked black pepper then pan fry or griddle on a high heat for a few minutes on either side until just cooked through, sprinkle with lemon juice and remove from the pan.

Meanwhile wash and tear the lettuce into bite size pieces and toss with a simple vinaigrette or Salad Dressing of your choice.

Arrange the dressed lettuce leaves on a plate then add a scatterring of cooked potatoes, slices of spring or salad onion and green beans then a layer of sliced tomatoes, cucumber or peppers according to your taste and what you have available and give it a pinch of sea salt as you go.  Top with the freshly cooked tuna and some black olives with the stones removed. Garnish with a pinch of chopped parsley for both looks and flavour. Serve with a little olive oil or salad dressing drizzled over the top.
VariationI often add sweet peppers, salad onions or cucumber too.

Pasta Arrabbiata

14 Oct

This is a classic Italian pasta sauce, spicy tomato sauce with garlic, herbs and hot chilli pepper. Most commonly served with a ridged pasta such Penne all’Arrabbiata. Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian referring to the red colour of the sauce and its angry heat. The main ingredients of an Arrabbiata Sauce are tomatoes and chilli most cooks will add some garlic, onion and one or more fresh herbs, I prefer oregano for this dish. Some cooks also use cured bacon but for my taste i like to add a couple of anchovy fillets to deepen the flavour. It is a simple sauce and can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta, using either fresh tomatoes or bottled.
Serves 2 prep 5mins cooking 9 minutes

  • Pasta, 2 servings
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red shallot
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1-3 fresh red chilli peppers or dried chilli flakes to taste
  • 2-3 tomatoes or 1 cup of home-made passata
  • Fresh oregano leaves or basil chopped

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 9 minutes or until ‘al dente’. Mince the anchovies and fry in a good slug of olive oil l until they melt into the oil, add the garlic and fry until its aroma rises then add the chopped or flaked chilli, skinned and chopped tomatoes (I used home-made passata but you could also use tinned tomatoes) stir well and cook for until the sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of pasta that has been tossed in olive oil with a pinch of cracked black pepper and some grated parmesan cheese (optional).

Recipe Sources
I looked at several versions of this classic the simplest being the one from in mamas kitchen or this one with bacon some recipes advocate using parsley, basil, oregano, marjoram or even mint some even suggest using all of them.
Variation Leave out the anchovies and this is a great vegetarian pasta dish.

Tuna, Pepper & Potato Stew

1 Oct

Rachel is half Spanish Basque, so every now and again I like to cook a dish from her heritage, and this is one of her favourites. In Spain this Basque dish is called Marmitako, and was traditionally made by bonito fishermen while at sea. The ingredients and the method of cooking are simple; potatoes, peppers and tuna fish stewed in olive oil. Something that can be knocked up on a galley stove, but the result is truly spectacular. It is deliciously rich and oily and a superb dish to keep out the cold.
Serves 2 Prep 10mins Cooking 40mins.

  • 400g tuna fish, de-boned, skined and cut into chunks
  • 150ml Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 green peppers de-seeded and chopped
  • 500g waxy potatoes peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • salt to taste if necessary
  • 3 tblsp home made Red Pepper Paste
  • 1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika

Heat a large cast iron pan, add the oil, onions and peppers and sautee over a low heat until they start to soften. Cut the potatoes into long quaters to make more of a virtue of them, they cook more slowly and somehow have a better taste than if cut into small pieces. Add the potatoes fry gently for a few minutes then add the pepper paste, paprika and enough water to cover and cook for 30mins. In another skillet fry the tuna pieces in a little olive oil until sealed and starting to brown. Transfer to the potato and pepper stew and cook for a further 1Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the bonito and cook for 10 minutes more. Check the seasoning and leave to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: This recipe came from The Heritage of Spanish Cooking – Alicia Rios and Lourdes March. The original recipe calls for 2 dried red peppers, soaked for 12 hours and then pureed and a much greater ratio of fish, twice the amount of fish to potato. But as we are land lubbers and tuna is expensive I have used more potato. I have also used pepper paste and paprika instead of dried peppers, long green medium chillis instead of sweet green peppers, which makes it spicier, but otherwise the dish remains true to its simple origins.

Cook’s Tip Dried red peppers can be difficult to come by which is one reason i use pepper paste instead. I make my own but you can make a quick verison of pepper paste by mashing up a jar of preserved red peppers and adding some chilli or paprika powder to taste

Pasta Con Sarda

26 Sep

Sardines are a super healthy food and plentiful, they are a fairly local fish for us, coming from the Mediteranean sea, which makes them cheap and easy to buy fresh. Sardines have a strong taste and I normally prefer them just dusted with seasoned flour and cooked over coals but I do like them with pasta, especially if teamed with tomatoes and parsley to cut through the oiliness of the fish.

Serves 2 prep 5 minutes cooking 8 minutes

  • pasta to serve 2
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2-3 fresh sardines
  • 2-3 tomatoes or 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • large handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Cookthe pasta in boiling salted water for 8 minutes or until ‘al dente’. Fillet the sardines removing any larger bones and cut into bite size pieces. Put a good slug of olive oil in a wide pan over heat then add the garlic and when the aroma rises add the fish. Fry gently then add 2 or 3 skinned and chopped tomatoes (I used home-made passata when I am in a rush or you could use tinned tomatoes) stir well and cook until the fish is cooked through and the sauce thickens,  5-8 minutes. Season and stir in the parsley and serve on a bed of pasta with a splash of fresh lemon juice.
A note on the pasta 
You can use any pasta, I used Casarecci, which means “home style” usually two-inch-long thin twists, popular in the Puglia region of Italy.
I sometimes like to add the grated zest & juice of half a lemon, or roasted sweet red peppers.
Notes on the Recipe  
When thinking about making this dish (all I wanted was sardines, tomatoes and parsley) I did some research  to see if there were any traditional recipes for pasta with sardines, as it seemed such a natural combination to me.  I came accross many versions of various types of pasta with sardines but non in the vein of what I had in mind. The most common are those which include pinenuts and sultanas and have their origins in the Arab or Saracens influenced Southern and Sicillian cuisines. In addition to the sultanas and pine nuts some recipes also include breadcrumbs, saffron and cheese. Non of them were really what I had in mind but here are some interesting examples if you want to take a look at Accidental HedonistJoanna’s Food, or Histoire de pates.

Prawn & Tomato Curry

23 Aug

One of our favourite curries is this prawns in a spicy tomato sauce. Rich and deeply flavoured, it has three types of chilli in it, dried whole, dried ground and fresh, which creates a layered delicious heat than can be made as mild or hot depending on your taste buds and the kinds of chillis you have. It makes a great dish to serve with other small dishes of lentils, potatoes or greens or as meal with rice or Chapatis.
Serves 2 or 4 with other small dishes Cook & Prep 35 – 45 minutes

  • vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 10 dried curry leaves
  • 1-5 whole dried chilli (bird)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely minced
  • 3-5 green frying peppers, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp green coriander Seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder (cayenne)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp mild chilli powder or paprika (mulato)
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-3 hot fresh hot green chilli, de-seeded & thinly sliced (kashmiri)
  • 400g (3 large) tomatoes, peeled and chopped.
  • 250g prawns

Grind the peppercorns and fenugreek to a powder, mix with the chilli, crushed green corianader seeds, paprika and turmeric powders and set aside. Peel, de-seed and chop the tomatoes and set aside. Put a large wide frying pan onto the heat and drizzle a layer of vegetable oil over the bottom. When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and whole dried chilli and fry until the seeds pop and the chilli darkens. Now add the onion and sliced frying peppers stir and cook until the onions pick up a bit of colour and the peppers are softened. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until the aroma rises (1 miniute) then add the ground spices and stir and fry until the rawness of the spices is fried out. Add the tomatoes and green chilli and cook for 15-20 minutes. Add the prawns and cook only until they are cooked through then serve.

Cook’s Note This is great summer dish, when there are plenty of tomatoes and when it is hot, the hot curry cools you down. It is also a great winter dish. When fresh tomatoes are out of season I use home bottled tomatoes or passata and if I have non of that left I use 2 tbsp concentrated tomato paste plus a tea cup of water.

Recipe Source This recipe evolved in our kitchen. I originally made it when I wanted to create a balance for a mild potato and greens curry I wanted something rich and tomatoey savory and sweet/sour. We liked it a lot then and I have since tweaked the recipe and ended up with this which I love and has become one of our staple dishes.

Prawn & Cucumber Salad

21 Aug

A lovely, fresh tasting, Asian inspired salad of prawns, crisp cucumbers with a hot, sweet and sour peanut dressing. Add rice noodles to make this a substantial meal. It is quick and easy to make and it tastes divine, perfect for a hot summers day.

Serves 2 prep 20 minutes
handful cooked prawns, peeled
1/2 – 1 cucumber (depending on how big they are)
fresh mint and or coriander leaves
fresh garlic chive flower buds (optional)
handful roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly crushed
2 portions of thin rice noodles
1 clove garlic, finely crushed
1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced
1 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced
4-6 tbsp hot water
2-3 tsp sugar (palm sugar if you can get it)
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Mix the sugar with the hot water and stir to dissolve. Add the garlic, chilli, fish sauce and lime juice and set aside to infuse. Meanwhile soak the noodles as directed on the packet (i find that they all behave a little differently some are best soaked for a few minutes in hot water while others need longer in cold water so it is best to follow the recommendations for the type you’ve got). Peel the cucumber, only if the skin is tough, otherwise slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and then into quarter lengths, remove the seeds and chop into bite sized pieces.
Lay the noodles in a large wide serving bowl, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of the dressing and toss to coat well. Decorate the noodles with the remaining fresh ingredients, toss gently, sprinkle with more dressing and scatter with the crushed peanuts before serving.

Prawn & Bean Fried Noodles

14 Aug

A quick, versatile and very tasty noodle stir fry using wheat noodles, prawns, green beans and beansprouts with a salty fish flavoured sauce. You could make this a vegetarian dish by using tofu or courgettes in place of the prawns.
Serves 2 Prep 10min Cook 5min

  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 young white onion or 2 spring onions.
  • 4 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 thick slice of ginger
  • 1 red hot Thai chilli
  • large handful of green beans mangetout peas, sugar snap peas, runner beans, or yard long beans
  • Large uncooked prawns about 8 per person
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 handfuls of fresh beanspouts
  • handful fresh coriander and / or chinese chives

Cook the noodles for 5-8 minutes, or as directed on the packet, until just softened then drain and set aside. Meanwhile prepare all the ingredients so that they are ready to hand to begin cooking; peel and roughly slice the white onion, peel and slice the garlic, peel and finely mince the ginger, slice the chilli into fine rounds, top and tail the beans and chop into 2cm pieces. Wash and chop the coriander and chives and mix together the 3 liquid ingredients.
Heat the oils in a wok and when smoking hot add the onion, stir quickly, then add the garlic, ginger, and chilli keep stirring. Then add the green beans stir for 30 seconds then add the prawns stir and cook until the prawns turn pink.Add the noodles and sauce and stir to make sure everything is well mixed. Finally mix in the bean sprouts and coriander and serve.

Cooks Note preparing the ingredients in advance should not mean having lots of little bowls and lots of washing up. I prepare the ingredients on a large chopping board, making a little pile of each ingredient, so that it can be just pushed off the board into the wok as needed.

Prawn & Snow Pea Stir Fry

29 Jul

Stir frying freshly picked vegetables is a great way of retaining the fresh crisp taste and goodness of young seasonal veg. Any leguminous pod vegetable and prawns is always a winning combination for me. I make the same dish using snap peas, french, runner or yard long beans, whatever is in season and they all taste great. Serve simply with plain boiled white or brown rice or rice noodles.

Or serve won a bed of rice noodles mixed with fresh raw beansprouts (pictured) for extra crunch and healthiness.
Serves 2 Prep 10min Cook 7min

  • 12 large, shell on, prawns
  • 1 tsp peanut oil
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch cracked black pepper
  • 100-150g mangetout peas or beans
  • 1-2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1-2 medium red chillis, finely sliced
  • handful of fresh herb leaves to taste such as: corinader, garklic chives, mint, laksa or Thai basil

Seasoning sauce

  • pinch chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce 
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce 
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Run a knife along the back of the prawns to slice through the shell, this will help them to cook, season and and set aside. Prepare all the ingredients so that they are to hand ready to through into the hot wok. Remove the tops from the peas/beans and any stringiness. Mix up the seasoning sauce and set aside.
Heat a wok or large frying pan until very hot and throw in the prawns. Cook until the skin starts to blister then throw in the peas, garlic, and spring onions. Cook on a high heat for 2-3 minutes, stir, add the chilli seasoning sauce and toss well throw in the herbs and serve.

Cook’s Note   I use home grown, dried and freshly ground chillis see making chilli powders which have bags of flavour and heat, so unless you have good quality fresh cayenne or chilli powder don’t use it, just add more fresh chillis to taste.

Spring Salmon Soup

27 Jun

A quick fresh tasting soup inspired by spring ingredients. The combination of the orange salmon and dark green leaves looks great and tastes superb. Excellent light lunch or starter.

Serves 4  Prep 20 mins Cook 10 mins

  • 250g new potatoes
  • 2 handfuls spring greens such as kale, brocoli or spring cabbage leaves
  • 200g Spring vegetables: peas, baby carrots, asparagus, baby courgettes, mangetout peas
  • Shelled broad beans or french beans cut into short pieces, blanched
  • 4 Salmon steaks or fillets de-skinned/bonned and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • I head fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 Tsp each sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Dash white wine
  • 1 Litre fresh fish stock
  • 1-2 tbsp Crème Fraîche
  • 1 tbsp marigold petals (optional)
  • 1 tbsp young Wild fennel fronds or dill finely chopped

This soup is put together by ladling lightly cooked fish and vegetable soup over cold new potatoes, conserving the fresh unique taste of each element.

Prepare the potatoes, peel or scrub and boil whole in salted water for 10mins, thickly sliced or cube when cool and set aside. Blanch vegetables by lowering into salted boiling water, in batches according to how long they will take to cook, 3-5mins, remove refresh in cold water. The vegetables should be slightly undercooked to preserve their colour and crunch.

In a large saucepan gently fry the salmon pieces in 1 tbsp of olive oil to seal, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add a knob of butter to the same saucepan add the onion, fennel, salt and pepper and sauté until soft. Add wine and cook for a further minute, add stock and bring to the boil add fish and vegetables to heat through. Take off the heat stir in Crème Fraîche and marigold petals. To serve, divide the cooked potatoes between the bowls and ladle the fish soup over the top. Serve with a sprinkling of finely chopped dill or young fennel leaves.

Recipe Source: devised and tested at Mas du Diable, inspired by a trip to the arctic circle and Swedish soups.