ground pork curry noodles

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This is an easy weeknight dinner dish that cooks up in less than half an hour. I used to make it years ago for Andy and the kids, and I was reminded of it when we were at the Cheesecake House last weekend, and I ordered it for dinner. Its curry flavor can be mild or pungent, depending on how you like it, but the important thing is not to cook the lettuce but to heat it through at the last minute.

Ground Pork Curry Noodles

220 g organic dried rice noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil or rice bran oil
1 medium red onion, cut into thin rings
4 cloves garlic, minced
350 g lean ground pork
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
Nam pla (fish sauce) to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or to taste
1/2 tablespoon Knorr chicken soup powder
1/2 cup water
cornstarch, optional
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped

Boil a large pot of water and let it simmer.

In a large wok or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Cook the onion until it is wilted. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the meat and cook, stirring, until no longer pink. Mix in the curry powder, nam pla, and pepper to taste. Put in the soup powder and water. If desired, thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch mixed with water. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat and add the chopped lettuce, toss to combine.

Cook the noodles in the simmering water about 6-8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and toss with a little bit of oil so that the noodles don’t stick together.

Serve the ground pork sauce over the hot noodles. Eat at once.

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chop suey thai style

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A friend of mine shared with me an NPR article on chop suey Mexican style. This fusion dish blending Chinese-American chop suey with Mexican beans and rice inspired me to create a Thai version. BTW, there is no such thing as an orthodox chop suey recipe; its very nature is improvisational–you use whatever is on hand.

Chop Suey Thai Style

1 cup (8 oz) Thai Jasmine Rice
water
1-2 tablespoons Knorr chicken powder

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved and cut into 1/4 inch chuncks
1 onion, peeled and halved then sliced thin
12 carrot sticks, about 3 inches long
8 fresh whole baby corn (can used canned)
12 asparagus spears, about 3 inches long
1-3 goat chilies to taste (can substitute jalapeño)
3/4-1 cup water
1/2 tablespoon Knorr chicken powder
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
Fish sauce to taste

Put rice in rice cooker bowl and add enough water to come up to the first knuckle on your finger. Sprinkle the chicken powder on top. Stir. Cook as directed by the rice cooker manufacturer. Keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high. Stir-fry the onion and the carrot sticks. When the onion browns slightly, add the chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink. Add the baby corn. Reduce heat to medium and cover the skillet/wok for a few minutes. Add the asparagus spears and stir-fry until bright green.

Mix the water and chicken powder with the cornstarch. Add to the wok/skillet with the goat chilies or jalapeño peppers. Stir until thickened. Taste and season with fish sauce.

Serve hot over rice.

banana “ice cream” with peanut butter and chocolate chips

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I took a break from blogging to visit my family in Canada. I didn’t stop cooking, though; I hosted two dinners. The first menu was Jamaican themed, the second was a low-carb menu. Dessert was off-theme, though, for what is the meal without something decadent to finish;  I made pavlova with fresh berries and cream. Here is another decadent dessert that isn’t calorie laden:  whipped frozen banana with peanut butter and chocolate chips. It looks like ice cream, doesn’t it?

Whipped Frozen Banana “Ice Cream” with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips
4 very ripe frozen whole bananas
Greek style yogurt
Honey
Creamy peanut butter
Chocolate chips

Slice the frozen bananas into rounds. Put them into the bowl of a food processor and process until fine. Add yogurt and honey to taste, then process until creamy.
Scrape into a bowl. Add peanut butter and chocolate chips to taste. Combine by hand so that the banana is streaked with peanut butter. Freeze 1-2 hours, then scoop into bowls and eat.  Yum. Makes 2-4 servings.

coconut water sorbet

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It looks and tastes like a snowball. It lacks dairy to make it creamy like a sherbet but as a summer dessert, it is cold and refreshing with a lightly sweet coconut flavor. This sorbet needs no flavor enhancer and I recommend making it with fresh young coconut water. I tried an earlier version of it with the coconut water in the UHT packaging and it just wasn’t the same. Fresh is best.

Coconut Water Sorbet

1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2-2 1/2 cups fresh young coconut water
1/4 cup fresh young coconut jelly, chopped fine

Heat water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Let cool to room temperature. Add the fresh young coconut water and stir to combine. Refrigerate 8-12 hours in a measuring cup with a spout.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. If using KitchenAid ice cream maker, assemble the drive assembly, dasher and freeze bowl. Turn on machine to Setting #1. While the machine is turning, pour the coconut water mixture into the freeze bowl and freeze until the desired consistency is reached 15-20 minutes. Three to five minutes before freezing time is up, add the chopped coconut jelly and continue mixing until done.

Scrape the sorbet into an airtight container and place in the freezer at least 2 hours to harden. Before serving let sorbet stand at room temperature 15-30 minutes before scooping.

jamaican curry chicken

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This is a light and flavorful curry, not at all heavy. It’s one of the dishes I grew up eating in Jamaica–just smelling the spices takes me home again.

Jamaican Curry Chicken 

3 medium potatoes, cubed
2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
1 1/2 medium onions, peeled, halved then quartered
2 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder (I recommend Betapac)
salt and pepper
4 chicken legs
4 chicken thighs boneless with skin on
2 chicken breasts boneless with skin on
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups water

In a large bowl, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper to taste and 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder. Set aside.

In a large Dutch pot, put the potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer potatoes for 10-15 minutes or until just softened. Drain potatoes and set aside.

In the now empty Dutch pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Brown the chicken pieces in the oil, skin side down. Add the vegetables and 2 1/2 cups water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and taste. Add up to a cupful of water if you want more gravy. Add the rest of the curry powder if you want a deeper orange color to the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. The potatoes will have thickened the sauce, but if you want it thicker, add a little cornstarch to some of the gravy and mix it together. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pot and stir to combine. Serve chicken curry hot over rice.

whatever pancakes

I said I would make rice flour pancakes for breakfast but instead, I came across this recipe for buttermilk pancakes on the Smitten Kitchen and changed course. It happens. I say I will make something and get inspired to do something else. I should explain that title… Not having buttermilk on hand, I substituted sour milk and this is what I got:

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The Whatever Pancakes

Pancakes

Makes 10 x 4 inch pancakes, enough for two

2 tablespoons (30 g) butter plus more for frying
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour milk* plus 2-4 tablespoons (can use buttermilk, of course)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour

*1 tablespoon vinegar in a 1 cup measure topped up with milk = 1 cup sour milk

Partially melt the butter in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave. Whisk in the sugar. It shouldn’t be too hot but if it is, let it cool slightly before adding the egg as you don’t want to cook it. Whisk in the egg into the cooled butter. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour milk and whisk to combine. Whisk in the salt and baking soda. Finally, whisk in the flour. The batter should be thickened.

Heat a griddle over medium heat until sizzling and add a pat of butter. Spoon batter onto the hot griddle and cook until it is browned on the underside. Flip and continue browning on the second side, about 1-2 minutes per side. Continue making pancakes until the batter is finished.

Deb Perelman says to let the pancakes finish in the oven for 5 minutes but I found that step wasn’t necessary. They were tall, fluffy and light straight off the griddle.

chicken and rice soup

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Being Chinese I hate to waste food. I roasted a whole chicken, and after carving it up, saved the carcass to make chicken and rice soup. They say chicken soup is good for the soul; well, it is also a good light supper with a salad on the side.

Chicken and Rice Soup
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

For the broth:
1 carcass of whole roast chicken
1 small onion peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 quarts (8 cups) water
1 tablespoon salt

For the soup:
1/2 cup carrot cut into cubes
1/2 cup diced celery, if desired
1 cup cooked rice
Scallion for garnish

Pick the meat off the bones of the carcass, cut meat into small dice, and set aside.

Put chicken carcass, onion, peppercorns, water and salt in a large Dutch pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce heat to a simmer about 45 minutes.

Slit open coffee filters and line a large strainer with them. Place lined strainer over a large heat proof bowl. Slowly pour the broth into the strainer and discard the solids.

Pour 4 cups broth into a medium sauce pan. Add the carrots and celery, if using,  and cook 5 minutes. Add the rice. Reserve the remainder of the broth for another use.

Spoon soup into bowls. Top with diced chicken and scallion. Serve right away.

shrimp lo mein

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This is a simple one-pot supper dish that only takes 30 minutes to prepare. The taste is lightly flavored with hoisin sauce, but if you don’t like it, or if you don’t have any, you can leave it out.

Shrimp Lo Mein
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5-7 minutes

1 1/2 tablespoons rice bran oil (can use vegetable oil)
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 – 1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
1 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 cup red onion, sliced
1/2 medium yellow or red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup carrots, cut into 3 inch matchsticks
250 g large shrimp
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
150 g lo mein noodles (can substitute fettucine or linguine)

In a large pot, boil 4 liters of water. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water. Drain noodles and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil and sauté the shrimp until pink and opaque. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, cornstarch, chicken broth, and hoisin sauce until smooth. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet. Lightly sauté the garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the snap peas, onions, bell peppers, and carrots. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are bright and just crisp tender, about 2-5 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture and cook until the sauce bubbles. Add the cooked shrimp. Turn off the heat.

Toss the noodles in the warm cooking water then drain. Add noodles to the pot and toss with vegetables and shrimp. Serve at once.

strawberry sorbet

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The great thing about this sorbet is that it is mostly fruit. This strawberry season I froze about 800 grams of fresh strawberries for a later use. When I got the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, I had a great idea for using up those strawberries. Using just 3 ingredients, this sorbet turned out smooth with a tart icy flavor that’s just perfect for a hot summer day’s treat. Note: You can substitute any kind of berry for the strawberries.

Strawberry Sorbet

750 g frozen strawberries, thawed
90 ml water
300 ml simple syrup

Make the simple syrup by heating equal amounts of sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight.

Next, puree the strawberries with water in a food processor until smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the strawberries by lightly pressing and stirring the puree. Discard the solids. Chill the strained strawberry puree at least 8 hours or overnight.

When ready, combine the simple syrup and strained strawberry puree and freeze according to the ice cream maker manufacturer’s directions. For the KitchenAid ice cream attachment, be sure the freeze bowl has been in the freezer for at least 24 hours then follow these directions.

1. Assemble the freeze bowl, drive assembly and dasher. Turn on the machine to Speed #1.
2. While the machine is running, slowly pour the sorbet mixture into the freeze bowl using a measuring cup with a spout.
3. Let the freeze bowl work its magic and in about 10-15 minutes you will have sorbet.
4. Remove the sorbet to a shallow airtight container and freeze for about 2 hours before serving.

jamaican black bean soup

 

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Soups in Jamaica are hearty. Black bean soup can be as thin or as thick as you desire. Serve it thick like a stew as a main meal with ham or sausage, or serve it thin as a soup course. The scotch bonnet pepper (or habañero can be a substitute) adds flavor as much as it adds heat, which is very mild actually, so don’t be afraid to use it. When they are available in Bangkok I buy them, and freeze the extra for future use.

Jamaican Black Bean Soup (adapted from ethnic spicy food and more)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 small scotch bonnet pepper, slit twice to release the flavors
1 1/2 cups vegetarian broth (substitute: chicken broth)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups dried)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (shake well before opening)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced fine

Cook vegetables. In a large stockpot, bring the temperature to medium heat. Swirl in the oil. Add the chopped red onion, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are somewhat tender. Add the broth, thyme and beans. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Sprinkle in the salt and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Purée cooked vegetables. Pour half of the soup into a blender or food processor. Pulse the soup to create a chunky mixture. Pour the puréed mixture back in with the remaining soup. Add the coconut milk and stir in the cilantro. Serve hot.

Variations

  • For a main meal, grill two sweet or hot Italian or Kielbasa sausages or turkey ham. Chop coarsely. Add to soup with the purée.
  • Use dried black beans instead of canned. Put 2 cups of beans, 6 cups of water, 3 tablespoons oil in pressure cooker. Cook 25 minutes. If beans were soaked overnight in the refrigerator, cook them 3-6 minutes.