Fresh Szechwan Steak Garden Rolls

szechwan-peppercorns-thai-basil

That photo, my friends, that one right there?  That is what tongue tingling flavour looks like.  Really!  I wanted something fresh and crunchy that didn’t mean deep-fried and heavy.  I would say that it was a desperate cling to summer and it’s fresh flavours but it’s not.  I like summer, don’t get me wrong but Autumn is my kind of time.  Breezy, fresh air whirling about, trees getting their Autumn/Winter wardrobe in, not to mention all the layering I can do!  Fine knits, deep jewel colours…Gah, I can’t wait!

herbs-steak-garden-rolls

You might need to have a little scout around for two of the ingredients in this.  Szechwan peppercorns and fresh Thai basil.  They are absolutely worth it though, really truly.  I would not lie to you about food.

The Thai basil is a bit more aniseed than Italian basil.. a little bit like tarragon too.  Tarragon and Italian basil put together, maybe?  But not spicy like star anise.. a clean aniseed, citrussy.  Ah hell just try it! It’s different and wonderful and combined with the Szechwan pepper will make your tongue tingle.  Szechwan pepper is different to black pepper.. it’s citrus and bright and doesn’t have the same heat.

If you can’t find either of them, no sweat!  Go for black peppercorn steak and coriander with the mint, just as fresh and bright and less of a shopping faff.

szechwan-peppercorn-steak

Smother your steak in a little sesame oil and crushed Szechwan pepper.  Sear it on a grill so it’s medium rare.  Sorry, I love the pink beef!

szechwan-peppercorn-steak-grilled

garden-rolls-steak

Let the steak rest whilst you faff about getting everything ready for wrapping.  Once you chop the two other items it’s really a very quick recipe.  And so full of flavour – or did I say that already?

rice-wrappers-and-fillings

The dipping sauce is minced garlic with a tablespoon of this that and the other.  Simple.  Fast.  Delicious.

szechwan-peppercorn-steak-garden-rolls

Yeah, rolling the rice wrappers is a little tricky but you quickly get the hang of it. As long as you use a clean damp cloth you’ll be fine.

This recipe gave me 10 rolls, or it would have done if I hadn’t eaten so many as I was making them.

250g good steak, rump is fine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Szechwan peppercorns
Vietnamese rice wrappers
Vermicelli rice noodles
Spring onion, cut into strips
Carrot, cut into strips
Fresh Thai basil
Fresh mint

Dipping sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 crushed garlic

Cook the vermicelli noodles until al dente and rinse with cold water.
Rub the steak with sesame oil and press with the crushed Szechwan peppercorns. Sear the steak to your liking, mine was 2 minutes a side.
Let the steak rest.
Mix together the dipping sauce ingredients.
Get your rolling area ready. Lay down a damp clean cloth, get a bowl of water big enough for the rice wrappers and bring the fillings close to hand.
The rice wrappers can be a little tricky but you’ll get the hang of it. Dip it in the water and rub it until it becomes pliable and floppy.
Lay it onto the damp towel and begin to layer the fillings.
Place one Thai basil leaf and one leaf of mint down first, this way they’ll show through when you wrap them up.
Add a few strips of spring onion and one of carrot. One or two strips of beef, depending on their size and then a bundle of noodles. Fold over the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold in both sides and roll ‘er up.
It might take one or two goes to get the amount of filling right but they’ll all be good eating!

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

I’m not joking around here.  This asparagus and tomato frittata is fast and it is healthy (unless you make it mostly cheese, then it’s just cheese isn’t it?).  It’s pretty much my take-to-work-breakfast staple.  And lunch, and dinner in the summer when it’s hot and all your body wants is salad, vegetables and ice pops.  It’s vegetables and protein, what’s not to love? 

The silicone baking pan makes all the difference for me, I literally throw everything in, RAW, and shove it in the oven.  That’s it.  If silicone wonder-pan is occupied with other goodies I’ll pop a wax paper/baking paper liner in the bottom of the pan so I can just turf it out when it’s done.  I can’t think of one person who enjoys scraping off burnt egg.  Fact.

cherry tomatoes with asparagus and spring onions for frittataI. could. not. stop. eating. the. tomatoes.  I must have a deficiency only satisfied by tomatoes.  I eat a lot of them. (With too much salt and soaked in vinagery salad dressing. Ahem.)

Raw asparagus and tomatoes ready for frittata

There really aren’t a lot of ingredients for this.

1 bunch of asparagus – about 15 slim spears
10 cherry tomatoes – halved and quatered
5 spring onions – chopped
12 eggs

What you see is what you get.  I snapped the asparagus into two with my hands and cut the tomatoes into either halves or quarters so some could sneak through the asparagus.

But asparagus is woody, you say?  Nah.  The trick to getting rid of the woody end is it to hold the spear in both hands.  One hand on the end and the other hand half way to the tip of the spear, bend it and it will snap where the woody part ends and the stalk becomes softer.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WOODY ENDS!  Keep a plastic bag in the freezer (or tupperware box if you have space, I don’t – little kitchen!) with vegetable odds and ends to make stock.  I’m serious!  Onion peelings (yes! the papery skins!), mushroom stalks, celery ends, unwanted herb stalks – but why you wouldn’t use those I’ll never know – any bits of vegetable, it all makes flavour.  It’s so much nicer than using those nasty nasty MSG filled stock cubes (except Kallo, y’all know I love ’em).  There will be a separate post where I’m going to use many exclamation marks to get my point across about this, just you wait.

tomatoes-and-asparagus-with-spring-onions-frittata

Anyway! Next add in the chopped up spring onions, raw again.  Everything will cook just enough in the oven with the eggs.  Who wants soggy vegetable frittata?  Bleugh!  Don’t be afraid to jam pack the pan with vegetables, they’ll all float about and have a swim in the egg custard when it’s poured in anyway.

Parmesan grated into egg custard for frittata

My favourite – a big soft heaping of grated parmesan.  Salty deliciousness. I’ve got about 12 eggs in there.  Yes. Twelve, we need that protein!  I just grated about a handful in, I didn’t want it too cheesy cause I’m trying to get my weight down (hah, never happen).  I also added a pinch of salt, a little black pepper (’cause, y’know, eggs) and about a dessert spoon of truffle oil, just for a background savoury flavour.  Absolutely not necessary or required, I just couldn’t help myself.

parmesan-egg-custard-frittata-2

That’s it!  Mix it up and pour it all in.  Bake it at about 180 C and keep checking on it after 25 minutes until it’s not too wobbly and is cooked through in the centre.  Turn it out quite soon after it’s done so you can drain away any liquid that may have been released by the vegetables, I poured off about a tablespoon but still.. we don’t want it soggy!

Leek and Potato Soup

leek-and-potato-soup

I still have a cold.  I’m not good at not doing anything, so…  Feed a cold, right?

Leeks-and-potatoes

Spring flowers are my favourite flowers, I grabbed them yesterday on a brief supply trip.  There are even some snowdrops in the garden and the footpaths are beginning to have a genuinely dry look about them.  I’m writing this whilst I’m waiting to finish a Blood Orange Meringue Pie, it’s on the step outside cooling as I type.   I think I went on a little bit of a seasonal food spree, hence the leeks and blood oranges.

leeks

I love leeks.  Beautiful colours and so silky in soup.  Just wash them thoroughly, they’ve been banked up and hidden in soil so it gets into the leaves pretty thoroughly.  Top and tail them, remove any grubby/tatty outer leaves and cut half way through the length.  Pop them under running water so you can wipe dirt away with your fingers whilst you pull the leaves aside.

I always begin soup with onion and celery (carrot as well if it’s going to be tomatoey).  Why onions when I’m using leeks?  It’s a different onion flavour plus the slow braising of onion and celery help give the soup more depth, a bloody good chicken stock will also help.  Translucent onions which are brown around the edge make food taste good.

Brown food tastes better!

So.. soup!  It’s creamy and leeky and delicious and is really good with some sharp, jaw tingling cheddar melted onto some oven-crisped bread.

leek-and-potato-soup2

Makes a huge pot of soup, I’d at least half it if you don’t want to eat it for a few days (or freeze it!).

1 onion diced
3 sticks celery, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 inch chunks
10 new potatoes or salad potatoes or any potatoes you have lying around, washed and in small chunks
2 chicken stock cubes*
Salt and Pepper

Biiiig pan time. Put the onion and celery in with the butter and oil. Coat everything in the oil and leave this on a low heat with the lid on while you wash and cut the leeks.
Put in all the leeks, if you think you need some more butter to coat them when they’ve wilted, go right on ahead. I love butter.
Wilt the leeks and put in the potatoes.
Add the stock cubes and cover everything generously with boiling water.
Boil until the potatoes are cooked.
Use an immersion hand blender or a blender blender. Blitz away! I left a few bits, but not many. I don’t think I look attractive when I run into difficulty getting slippy leeks off a spoon with my face.
Taste it and adjust the seasoning. Even after adding stock cubes I required more salt.
If you want cheddar toasts, grate a little cheese onto slices of bread, pop under the grill until it’s the colour you want. I didn’t toast the bread first, I like it warm and soft.

*I use a lot of stock cubes. I get it, for someone who is.. well.. a food snob.. I use a lot of stock cubes. I also work a lot, I don’t have the time or money to roast an organic free range chicken every time I need chicken stock (unfortunately) but as I’ve said, oh so many times, Kallo cubes are a pretty good substitute.

Fast Falafel Wraps

An open falafel wrap

An open falafel wrap

Exactly that.  Falafel wraps for lunch, and they took all of ten minutes, which was basically me puttering about lazily while the falafel heated up in the oven.

Flames brand Falafel

I know.  I’ve used ready made boxed Falafel.  When we were shopping yesterday (in one of the amazing Asian supermarkets in Fenham, the West End of Newcastle) I knew I wasn’t going to feel any better (I’ve got my first cold of the year) so I grabbed a box.  Plus, they’re delicious and don’t have any weird ingredients in them. So there.

coriander-with-chilli-and-garlic

In any of the Asian supermarkets we can buy four fresh naan or flat breads for £1.  Pretty awesome.  All I really needed to do was make a quick mayonnaise mix of crushed garlic, chilli and coriander then pile everything in.

flatbread-onion-tomato-parsley

I was assembling for two

2 large naan or flat breads
8 falafel
1 tomato, thinly sliced
4 thin slices of onion in rings
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 mild heat chilli finely chopped
1 crushed garlic clove
2 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise
pinch salt
pinch pepper
1 lemon for a few squeezes of juice
2 big handfuls of salad or lettuce or any leaf of your choice

Put the falafel in the oven to warm up. While they’re doing that..
Mix together the chopped chilli, crushed garlic, chopped coriander and mayonnaise with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Grab your breads and spread as much of this tasty mayo on as you’d like.
Top each with salad.
Put four falafel onto each salad pile.
Top with the onion, tomato, chopped parsley, a little extra lemon juice and more spiked mayonnaise if you want (I wanted!).

Roll up tight and eat.  Awesome.

Spring Cabbage and Pea Soup

Shredded cabbage and peas

spring-cabbage-and-pea-soup-two

This is really just ‘fridge soup’ masquerading as a healthy broth.  It IS healthy, and I found it oddly comforting.   I honestly expected it to be bland cabbage soup, the kind the crazy yo-yo dieters insist is the miracle weight stripper.  But it was delicious.  Light and quite sweet from the peas, so the sharp grilled cheddar toasts were a savory delight.  Also – crunchy bread with soft hot soup?  Win.

 cropped-savoy-cabbage-one.jpg

 

ingredients-saucepan

Of course you can make this soup more delicious – add BACON.  Yep.  I said it.  Bacon.  Quite possibly the most delicious, deeply savory soup meat.
If you were to buy a piece of bacon – not the ready sliced rashers which curl up at the thought of being immersed in hot water, leaving their white wobbly fat floating around the pan. A lump/piece of bacon. Normally quite cheap in supermarkets over here in the UK.
So, if you were to buy a piece of bacon to make this soup more delicious – and not vegetarian – you should chop it into chunks and add it to the pan when the onions, bay, celery and garlic have had a few moments to themselves. Do not add stock cubes when you add the water! Bacon is salty.
Let all of this bubble around for quite a while if you want tender bacon which falls into strips. Or even in the slow cooker overnight. Then, when the bacon is done, continue on with the cabbage and peas. It will be tremendous.
Alternatively, brown some cubed pancetta with the onions and carry on regardless.

shredded-savoy-cabbage

 

 

Shredded cabbage and peas

 

 

bread-and-cheese

 

two tablespoons of olive oil
one chopped onion
two ribs of celery, chopped
two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
one bay leaf
a half head of savoy cabbage
two stock cubes – vegetable or chicken
two mugs of frozen peas
Into a large saucepan put the oil, onion, celery, bay leaf and garlic. Let this sit on low while you clean and finely slice the cabbage.
Cut out the tough stem of the cabbage, which will leave you two ‘ears’. Stack the ear leaves on top of each other and finely slice across the length.
Add the cabbage ribbons to the pot and coat with the oil.
Add the stock cubes and cover with hot water.
Let this bubble to take the raw edge off the cabbage, about five minutes will do.
I used this five minutes to grate some sharp cheddar onto a slice of olive bread (all I had in the cupboard) and shoved it under a high grill to bubble and crisp.
Toss in the peas for about three minutes.
Check the seasoning and serve.
Beware, it’s very steamy – thoroughly fogged my camera lens.