My new thing is cookbooks. I’m a 23 year old girl and I’d rather sit at home reading a good cookbook and cook a delicious meal than go out clubbing. Am I old before me years?!
I don’t care – I’ve had my fair share of ‘fun’ over the years and now I just love devouring a delectable book page by page, picking out recipes that I want to recreate.
So I was a VERY happy bunny when Stephanie Alexander’s ‘Kitchen Garden Companion’ landed on my doormat. I do have a garden, although it doesn’t get much sunlight. In fact, it pretty much doesn’t get ANY sunlight due to the massive (albeit beautiful) trees surrounding. The best I have is a (sort of) ‘roof terrace’. What I really mean when I say ‘roof terrace’ is a flat gravelled roof that we occasionally use for sunbathing in the summer.
We are just in the process of refurbing an old bedroom and making it into a kitchen and the ‘roof terrace’ is accessible through that kitchen widow. So next summer I plan to do some good potting. Until then I will continue to buy my veg from my local supermarket.
The book lists a large number of fruit and vegetables in alphabetical order and there are detailed instructions on how to get the best out of them when growing. Each veg also comes with at least one recipe.
Last weekend, while my boyfriend was engrossed in the Ryder Cup, I plonked myself down next to him on the sofa and read every single page bookmarking every recipe that I wanted to try.
So when the decision of what to cook came around, we opened the book to a random bookmarked page. ‘Tony Tan’s Beef and Spinach Curry’ looked out at us and that was that. Now, what to go with it? The next random choice was rather fitting, ‘Spring Onion Cakes’.
The photography in the book makes you want to engross yourself in it for hours – it’s sharp, bright and beautiful, i’ve never seen so many handsom vegetables!
The Spring Onion fish cakes were pretty fiddly and they took a long time to prepare. There was a lot of short bursts and then leaving for 30 mins, not long enough to do much so they require your presence in the kitchen for a good 2 hours. Nonetheless they were extremely tasty and had a lovely crunch.
The curry recipe started off by telling me to stick the onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor. Having never done this before with onion, I was slightly surprised to see the bright purple paste. It did match my purple cooking pot though!
These are fantastic lazy Sunday recipes and you’ll have enough for left overs for lunch the next day.
Tony Tan’s Beef and Spinach Curry
50g tamarind pulp (I used tamarind paste)
60ml boiling water
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 x 6cm long piece ginger, roughly chopped
80ml peanut oil
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods, lightly bruised
1 1/2 tbsp ground corriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1.5kg beef oyster blade, cut into 3cm pieces
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
250g spinach, washed
basmati rice and spring onion cakes to serve
1. Make tamarind water using tamarind and the boiling water. Process onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor to form a paste.
2. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C
3. Heat peanut oil in a 4 litre enamelled cast-iron casserole over a medium heat and fry onion paste, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom pods for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
4. Stir in corriander, cumin, chilli and tamarind water and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add meat and stir, turning to coat with spice mixture. Tip in tomato, tomato paste, water and salt. Stir again.
6. Cover and bring to simmering point over medium heat, then transfer to oven and cook for 3 hours. At the end of this time the meat will be tender.
7. Leave to stand, and skim off and discard any exess oil that has risen to the surface.
8. Meanwhile, fold each spinach leaf along stem-line with rough side uppermost, then pull stem up and along the leaf. The stem end and central stem will come away leaving two pieces of leaf. Wash leaves well.
9. Ten minutes before serving, place curry over low heat to reheat, then drop in spinach leaves, season to taste with salt and serve with basmati rice and spring onion cakes
Spring Onion Cakes
125g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil, plus extra for brushing
peanut oil, for shallow frying
Spring onion filling
1tsp salted black beans
1cm long piece of ginger
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
2. Melt lard in the water in a small saucepan over medium heat, then tip into flour.
3. Mix with a wooden spoon until flour is incorporated. As soon as you can touch the dough, knead it for 1 minute or until smooth, then return it to the bowl and cover with a damp muslin cloth or tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes.
4. To make the spring onion filling, put black beans into a small bowl and crush with the back of a teaspoon
5. Finely chop black beans on a chopping board with ginger.
6. Return to bowl and stir in spring onion, then set aside.
7. Take the ball of dough and roll it into a fat sausage shape, then cut the roll into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into small ball and dust with extra flour.
8. Roll each ball into a thin 12cm round with a rolling pin. Repeat with the remaining balls.
9. Brush each round very lightly with sesame oil.
10. Scatter filling over dough rounds, dividing it evenly. Using your fingers, roll each circle up like a fat cigar to enclose filling. Slightly flatten each ‘cigar’ and then roll it into a snail shape. Pinch ends firmly.
11. Lay rolled ‘snails’ on a baking tray and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes.
12. Lightly dust ‘snails’ with flour. Flatten each one gently with your hand and roll out to a thin 10cm round with a rolling pin. Leave for 30 mintues.
13. Preheat oven to 100 degrees C and put a paper towel-lined ovenproof plate inside to warm.
14. Pour oil into a medium sized non stick frying pan or wok to a depth of 1cm in the centre and heat over a high heat. Add sesame oil.
15. When hot, put as many pancakes as will fit in a single layer. They should bubble and blister after about 1 minute.
16. Turn to cook other side, then drain on paper-towel lined plate in oven. Serve warm.
Kitchen Garden Companion
That beef and spinach curry looks fantastic, I think I’d use tamarind paste instead of pulp too!
I only used paste because it was all Waitrose had – I think it makes the taste a little more subtle!
Stephanie Alexander is Australia’s equivalent of Delia and Jamie Oliver rolled into one – her Cook’s Companion is my bible!