Thai Chicken Soup

I think winter finally caught up with me a few weeks ago. After months of cycling to and back from work at minus temperatures, my body decided it had enough of the cold. As it was a really bad time to get ill, I did the only obvious thing: I boiled some chicken.

Now, I’m happy to admit that I love plain chicken broth, with some rice thrown in and a good squeeze of lemon. It’s what I always ate as a kid when I was ill and it is the first thing I turn to when I start feeling a bit fragile. But apparently*, it’s rubbish. Boring. Greasy. Tasteless.

And therefore, I’ve discovered this spicier, more sophisticated and grown-up version of it. It tastes good and it might even be better for you because of all the green things in it.

Thai Chicken Soup

Ingredients (serves 4)

500gr chicken (if using legs/thighs, remove the skin)
2 litres hot water

2 aubergines, cut in chunks
2 red chillies, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small piece of ginger, minced (about 1cm squared)
1-2 tsp thai green paste

juice and zest of one large lime
2 tbsp thai fish sauce
400ml coconut milk
a large handful of kale

300gr rice noodles
chopped fresh coriander (to serve)
lime wedges (to serve)

First, quickly brown the chicken pieces in a pan and then add the hot water and let it cook for about 1-2 hours to make the stock. Alternatively, you can use leftover chicken meat and ready-made stock. But where’s the fun in that.

In some olive/vegetable oil, brown the aubergines and add the chopped chillies, garlic, ginger and thai paste. Fry for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Shred the chicken and add it to the pan together with the stock, the juice and zest of lime and the fish sauce and cook for 20 minutes, or until the aubergines are tender.

Add the coconut milk, simmer for 5-10 minutes and then add the kale and simmer until cooked. Check for seasoning and add more fish sauce if necessary.

Prepare the rice noodles according to the instructions. To serve, put some noodles in a deep bowl, ladle in some of the broth making sure everyone gets a nice amount of chicken and vegetables (I fight for those aubergine pieces!) and top it with chopped coriander. Serve with lime wedges.

*”apparently” = “according to the boyfriend”.

Aubergine and Anchovy Pasta

This dish might not look like much, but it really does pack a punch. The aubergine makes the sauce creamy and thick, while the anchovies are really the dominant flavour. I’ve been quite vague about the amount of anchovies you should use in the recipe, as it really depends on your taste. I used four, and it was strong. I was not sure about the cheese/anchovy combination, but it works really well. Just don’t eat this before a date – you’ve been warned.

Aubergine and Anchovy Pasta

Ingredients (serves 2-3, depending on appetite)

300 gr linguine
1 aubergine
2-4 anchovy fillets, drained
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp tomato paste, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
freshly ground pepper
good pinch of dried oregano
grated pecorino or parmesan
fresh parsley, to serve

First, pierce the aubergine all over with a knife, place it in tray and under a hot grill and cook until it’s collapsing, with a burnt skin.

In the meantime, chop the anchovy fillets finely and grate the garlic into a paste (I do this using a microplane grater). Put some olive oil in a pan, cook the anchovies over medium heat until dissolved, and add the garlic. Cook for a further couple of minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Cut the aubergine in half and scoop out the soft flesh. Chop finely and add to the pan. Fry it with the anchovy/garlic paste for a couple of minutes, before adding the diluted tomato paste and letting the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes. Season with pepper and oregano (the anchovies with make this salty enough so I doubt you’ll need more salt).

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water and, before draining, reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and use the reserved water to bind it together. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and stir until melted. Serve with some chopped fresh parsley on the top.

Chinese Pork with Aubergines and Crackling

It turns out I love Chinese food. And although there is a place and a time for the sickly, bright red, sweet and sour sauce at the all-you-can-eat buffet (say, Sunday lunch somewhere in Zone 7), it doesn’t come close to making your own sweet and sour at home.

This is not quite it I suppose. Maybe somewhere in between a sweet and sour and the fish fragrant aubergine I had at Chilli Cool a few weeks back. I’ve been wanted to make something similar since then. And just in case that wasn’t exciting enough, I thought I’d use the skin to make some crackling. I don’t like waste, you see.

Please don’t get angry at me for the generic name I’ve given this dish. I didn’t follow a specific recipe and didn’t want to call it something that it isn’t. If you have any better suggestions I’d love to hear them!

The crackling was amazing, properly puffed up and with soft bits every here and there. It was in fact so good that we ended up eating it all before I could take a picture of it. I’ll be making this again.

Chinese Pork with Aubergines and Crackling

For the sauce
a small pork joint
3 tbsp chinese rice vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp red wine

Chop the pork in inch thick cubes and add all the ingredients in a bowl. Let it marinate for half an hour (or longer if possible – you can do it overnight in the fridge). Reserving the marinade, fry the pieces of pork over high heat until browned. If they are releasing too much liquid you can add that to the marinade. You don’t want them to simmer. When browned and with crisped edges, take out of the pan and set aside.

2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, grated
3 dried birds-eye chillies, chopped
2 aubergines, sliced in fingers*
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
extra soy sauce or rice vinegar, to taste

* I threw in some courgettes and peppers because I had them in my fridge, but the aubergines were by far my favourite – no surprises there!

In the same pot used to brown the meat, add the oil and soften the onions. Add the garlic and chilli, fry for a couple of minutes and then add the aubergines (or any other vegetable you’re using). When they’ve browned a bit, add the meat pieces, the reserved marinade, the ketchup and sugar and enough water to cover everything. Let it simmer until the sauce thickens and the pork is tender. Taste and add more soy sauce or vinegar if you want it saltier/more sour. If the sauce is too thin you can use some cornflour to thicken it.

For the crackling

the skin of the pork, in one piece
vinegar (use some of the chinese rice vinegar from before)
salt

Score the skin and place it on a rack over the sink. Poor boiling water over it, pat dry and rub with the salt and vinegar. Roast in a preheated oven at 200 Celsius for about an hour. When it’s looking crispy, pop it under a hot grill to puff up. Make sure you keep an eye on it as it can go from puffy to burnt in seconds!

Serve the pork with some plain rice and a bit of crackling on the side.

Lentil and Aubergine Curry (Indian #7)

While I love meat and I could never be vegetarian, there is really no need to make vegetarian dishes bland and boring. Lentils are full of flavour (and iron, so no need for that steak) and aubergines are the meatiest vegetable out there. Both make a healthy alternative to meaty dishes and, combined with some Indian spices, you have the perfect winter warmer.

This started as a lentil and carrot soup, until I realised I had no carrots and had to improvise. So please don’t judge me on the authenticity of the dish. It’s yummy.

Lentil and Aubergine Curry

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely or grated
2 dried birds eye chillies, chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
olive oil

1 aubergine
200gr lentils (I used green, but red perhaps will be more authentic)
2 tbsp tomato paste, diluted in some water
1 tsp garam masala
salt, to taste

200gr Total Greek Yoghurt, to serve

Fry the onions and the garlic in the olive oil together with the spices (chillies, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, chilli powder) over low-medium heat, until soft. Add the aubergines and fry them a little longer, until they start to soften.

Add the lentils and the tomato paste and let it simmer over low heat. You might need to add more water as this is cooking since the lentils will absorb quite a bit. When the lentils are soft (about 40 minutes later), add the garam masala and season with salt.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and some warm pita bread.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 
Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits
Aubergine in Yoghurt
Heston’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Lamb and Spinach Curry
Red Onion and Pomegranate Salad

Oxtail Ragu

About a month ago, I went to a butcher and found some oxtail. I had never had it before but had seen this recipe and was keeping my eye out for it. I made a ragu and used my pasta machine for the first time to make the pasta for it. It was pretty amazing but since I then went to Greece for a few weeks, I forgot to blog about it. Now I’m back and it’s cold so I started craving the rich, thick, meaty sauce on eggy pasta. No doubt I’ll be making it again soon.

The recipe is fairly similar to a standard ragu recipe with an extra step to remove the meat from the bone. I’ve changed the original recipe slightly to use spices I am obsessed about had in hand.

Oxtail Ragu (recipe adapted from Hollow Legs)

Ingredients (serves 4)

1.2 kg oxtail (bone included), cut into pieces
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Half a bottle of red wine
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tsp Marmite
a sprinkle of dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3-4 all spice berries
2 aubergines, chopped in finger-sized pieces
Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, brown off the meat. Take it out of the pan, add some olive oil and the onions and fry until soft. Add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add the meat back in the pan together with the wine and let it boil so that the the alcohol evaporates. Add the tomatoes, some water, the Marmite and the herbs and spices and simmer for at least 2 hours (but the longer the better).

When the meat feels soft, take the pieces out and remove it from the bone. Add the meat piecesback into the pan, together with the aubergine and a little more water. Let it simmer for an hour. Serve with pasta.

Aubergine in Yoghurt (Indian #3)

If this was a politics blog, I would have been busy all this time talking about all the big changes happening in the two countries I consider my home. It isn’t, and that’s why I’ve been silent. In real life, I mourned the loss of three lives, got angry at the violence of the police and worried about the future of a country that is “on the brink of the abyss”. In the meantime, the UK got a new government and I spent more than a few days complaining about not being able to vote. Not that it would have made much of difference anyway.

And after all that, I thought it was about time I put a recipe up here. If anyone still remembers, I do this thing where I pick a country and cook 10 different things from that country- provided I’ve never cooked them before. Last time I posted about this, I was doing India, and I promised some prawns. Well, guess what, I’ve gone back on my promise. But it’s ok, because this is better. Actually, it’s so good that I’ve already made it 3 or 4 times, and I thought it was about time I shared it with the world (well, actually, the BBC did that for me a while ago).

This is a very simple Indian dish, and apparently there exist other versions of it which use sour cream rather than yoghurt, but I thought I might as well keep it healthy. It’s a great side dish to any curry, or simply served with some Indian bread and/or rice.

Aubergine in Yoghurt (adapted from here)

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side)

2 large aubergines, thinly sliced into rounds
pinch of turmeric
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp olive oil

200 ml Greek-style plain yoghurt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin

a handful of fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

To prepare the aubergines, mix the oil with the turmeric, salt and 1/2 tsp of chilli powder in a bowl, brush each side of the aubergines and grill until soft, turning half way.

At this point, you can slice them in half to make it easier to mix with the yoghurt later.

In a bowl, beat 150ml of yoghurt with the sugar and the other 1/2 tsp of chilli powder. Roast the ground cumin in a non-stick pan over low heat until the smell starts filling the kitchen. Add the yoghurt and continue to heat gently until it’s warm. Add the aubergine slices and the remaining yoghurt and stir to combine. Serve with some chopped coriander leaves.

Have it as a side to a curry, with some naan bread and rice. It works well cold too, wrapped in pita bread for a quick leftover lunch. You can adjust the amount and type (I use hot) of chilli powder to make it as spicy as you like. I like it with a bit of a kick, as the cooling yoghurt makes sure you don’t burn yourself too much.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 
Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits
Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: No, Heston, I haven’t got an MRI scanner!

Beef with Aubergines (Greek #4)

Note to self: next time I’m ill, I should make soup. Not spend a couple of hours preparing something yummy and then not be able to taste it because my nose is blocked and my tastebuds have died.

I think it was nice. People that tasted it said it was nice. And you can’t really go wrong with beef and aubergines. And if there is one thing that can improve pasta, it’s cooking it in meat juice. Maybe I should start cooking all pasta in meat juice, or even better, roast it in butter and then simmer it in veal stock.

This dish falls under the kokkinisto category of Greek cooking, which translates as “made red” and is a general term for tomato stews. When meat is involved, I love using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and the brilliant all-spice. It’s not a kokkinisto without them. My general rule is to go easy on them with beef, since it’s quite strong, but use them liberally with chicken. Chicken kokkinisto is definitely in my top 10 favourite dishes, in a similar way that the French (and not only!) love their coq au vin. It’s aromatic and saucy and rich, perfect winter food.

Hang on, I’m still talking about chicken? I’m making beef here. Concentrate.

Beef with Aubergines

Ingredients (serves 4 very hungry people)

1 kg beef, diced
4 large aubergines
500gr orzo pasta (or other small sized pasta)
3 large onions
1-2 glasses of red wine
1 can good quality chopped tomatoes (they really do make a difference)
1 carton creamed tomatoes (or enough to make the sauce red and tomatoey)
5-6 all-spice berries
half a teaspoon cinnamon
half a teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of oregano
olive oil
salt, pepper

First, chop the onions and fry them in the olive oil. When they start getting soft, add the meat and let it brown. Add the wine, wait for a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate and add the chopped and creamed tomatoes. Cook for as long as you like – the longer the better as it will make the meat tender. Add the spices and pepper, but not the salt. Someone told me that it makes the meat tough if you add it early on. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Especially with Sainsbury’s beef, you need all the help you can get.

Slice the aubergines, brush them with olive oil and grill them. Arrange on kitchen roll to get rid of any extra fat. Then slice them in quarters.

When your stew has stewed enough, add the aubergines, the salt, some boiled water and your pack of pasta. It is a bit tricky here: make sure you stir enough so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom but don’t add too much water or you will end up with a soup and don’t stir too much or your aubergines will disintegrate.

When the pasta is done, you’re done. Grate some cheese (preferably something salty and strong, like pecorino) and enjoy. It’s perfect for winter so if you try it, let me know how it went!

 

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: This is scary.