Monday, November 21, 2016

Broccoli Stalk Stew

Broccoli stalks, if you ask me, are the best part of the vegetable, and perhaps any vegetable. They can have a sort of pak choi flavour and texture if you don't cook them too much, and slice them thinly.

This is a take on a soup/stew I had a number of times when I was living in Cambodia. There, they use the stalks to good effect, slicing them to the thickness of a beer bottle top for want of a better, but all the same as appropriate, image - then cooking them in soups, fried rice, noodle dishes, and probably a lot of other dishes I've forgotten since those impecunious, halcyon days.

I've used potato here, which doesn't grow well in Cambodia, but the ingredients are far from consistent there, to be sure using whatever is cheap in the market that week, so I've tweaked accordingly.

It is usually served with a small bowl of chopped red chillies topped with a chunk of lime, maybe a side plate of a few leafy vegetables or herbs like they do so well in neighbouring Vietnam, and of course the ubiquitous, plastic (often red) basket containing fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, toothpicks, and pickled green chillies if you're lucky. As dishes go it's got to be about as cheap as it comes, but it's very good all the same.

Stalks of two large broccoli heads, sliced thinly
2 large potatoes, each cut into eight pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml water
Salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic
Chopped red bird eye chillies

Prep the vegetables then fry the onion in a pot until it has softened and is beginning to colour. Add the potato pieces, garlic, and ginger. Continuing frying for a few more minutes. Add the water, bring to the boil, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the broccoli stalks, recover the pot and cook for another five minutes or so until the stalks are tender and the potato still firm. Add a little more water if necessary. You don't want it swamping, but there needs to be liquor. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve with chillies, fish sauce and all the rest. Then imagine you're sitting on a plastic stool in 35C heat.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Snakebite Lamb

This is a take on an old English recipe for boiled mutton. You might think I've added an unnecessary, not to say dubiously fusion, twist with the tablespoon or so of fish sauce. But fish sauce, or nam pla in Thailand, is nothing more than anchovies and salt, with the final addition of a little sugar, left to naturally ferment for months, and sometimes years, dripping forth its pungent red-brown liquor.

It is little different to the many European fish sauces made with anchovies and salt, brought by the Romans to Albion, and known as garum and other names. Many are the robust, devilled English recipes that demanded fermented fish sauce, and later its distant niece Worcestershire sauce, and there are few finer combinations than roast lamb studded with anchovy fillets and garlic. 

Yes, rosemary if you will, but it's the salty fish and lamb/mutton taste that makes the dish, which is why saltmarsh lamb that stuff themselves on samphire and seaweeds on places like Romney Marsh and the Gower provide such wonderful feasts. 

The snakebite combination of cider and lager, of course, works well too. The lamb is first simmered in sharp scrumpy and then is improved with the bitter taste of fermented hops later on. A little mustard, thyme, and lots of garlic, and the dish is complete.

1kg boned leg of lamb
500ml scrumpy cider
250ml lager beer
10 cloves of garlic
10 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 tsps English mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 large onion, chopped roughly
2 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker on a medium-heat hob and fry the onions for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Tilt the pan and push the onions to one side then brown the joint of rolled lamb. Keep turning the joint, making sure it is brown all over, and the onions don't catch. 

Add the carrots and bay leaves and fry for another two minutes, adding a little water if the bottom begins to catch. Then add the scrumpy, peppercorns, mustard, fish sauce and five cloves of garlic. 

Put the lid on and cook under a medium pressure for 20 minutes. Then open the cooker, turn the lamb, and cook under pressure for another 20 minutes. Take the lid off and add the beer and the other five clove of garlic. 

Simmer uncovered for one hour, turning the lamb regulary, until the liquid is reduced by a third - this should take between 40 minutes and an hour, depending on the heat of the hob.

Allow the lamb to rest for 20 minutes in the pan, then carve into thick sliices and serve in a bowl. Add a couple of ladles of the lamb liquor, and serve with boiled potatoes and green vegetables.