food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘salad’ Category

squid and water spinach salad

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Water spinach (water morning glory, water convolvulus or in South East Asia kangkong) is a semi-aquatic plant which grows in tropical climates and is eaten as a vegetable all over Asia. I’ve used it in many cooked dishes but I also like it raw. Here it’s paired with tender poached squid in a salad with a Vietnamese dressing.

If you can buy clean whole squid tubes your job is easier. Otherwise you will have to clean and rinse the squid to prepare it. Open the tubes and score the squid on the outside before cutting into pieces. To poach the squid bring some salted water to boil and briefly drop the squid into the water until it just becomes opaque. Remove from the water immediately and set aside. For the salad wash and cut the water spinach into shorter lengths, discarding any large or fibrous stems and place them in your salad bowl. Add a carrot, ideally shredded into long strips and 1 or 2 finely sliced red birds-eye chillies. For the dressing combine 1 – 1½ tablespoons of Vietnamese fish sauce, 1 minced clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons of caster sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix to dissolve the sugar and check the seasoning – it should have a good balance of salty, sweet and sour. Add the squid to the salad then add the dressing and toss well. Garnish with roughly crushed roasted peanuts.

Written by michelle picker

March 18, 2020 at 12:16 am

three sichuan salads

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More cold dishes from The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop: “A Sichuan feast always begins with a teasing spread of cold dishes to arouse the senses and set the mood for the meal to come.” These three salads are all easy to make and delectable.

Spicy steamed eggplant (aubergine) salad. For this salad, cut 800g (1¾ lbs) of eggplants in half. Place them in a bowl in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and allow to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-sized pieces – the original recipe says to discard the skin and seeds and tear the flesh but I chose to leave them intact as I like the skin and the eggplants I buy are not bitter or seedy. Place in a serving dish. For the sauce combine 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of Chinkiang vinegar, 1 teaspoon of caster sugar, 2 tablespoons of chilli oil, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a few pinches of roasted ground Sichuan peppercorns. Pour over the eggplant, stirring a little and garnish with some thinly sliced spring onion greens.

Spiced cucumber salad. Cut a large cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seedy part. Now cut the cucumber into 5cm (2″) lengths and into strips. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with ½ a teaspoon of salt and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Drain the cucumbers and shake them dry. Now snip 8-10 long dried chillies into shorter lengths, shaking out the seeds as much as possible. Heat a wok over high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and add the chillies and 1 teaspoon of whole Sichuan peppercorns. Stir-fry until the chillies become darker but not burnt. Add the cucumbers briefly, just to heat the surface and combine the flavours. Remove from the heat, add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and turn out into a serving dish.

Sour and hot wood-ear salad. Wood-ear fungus, (AKA cloud ear fungus, black fungus, black Chinese fungus (or mushroom), wood fungus, ear fungus, or tree ear fungus) is a type of fungus which grows on trees and is ear-shaped, hence it’s name. It’s texture is both smooth and crunchy, and it provides great textural contrast in many Chinese dishes. To make this salad, soak 20g (¾ oz) of wood-ear fungus either in boiling water for at least 30 minutes or in cold water for several hours or overnight. Tear them into bite-size pieces discarding any hard bits. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil and blanch the pieces of wood-ear for 10 – 20 seconds then refresh under cold water. Drain them well and place them in a serving bowl. In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons of thinly sliced fresh red chillies, ¼ of a teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of white rice vinegar. Stir well and add to the fungus along with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, a handful of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves and 1½ teaspoons of sesame oil. Season with more salt if necessary and toss well before serving.

Written by michelle picker

February 26, 2020 at 12:14 am

two cooked salads

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These two Middle Eastern style salads make an excellent accompaniment for fried halloumi cheese, or grilled meat, chicken or fish. You could also serve them as part of a mezze (appetiser) first course.

In this salad the combination of sweet onions and peas is balanced by salty preserved lemon.

Heat some olive oil in a small saucepan and fry 1 large chopped onion until it is soft and translucent. Add frozen baby peas and 2 quarters of finely diced preserved lemon rind. Continue to cook until the peas are just soft. Turn off the heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of yoghurt, 1 crushed clove of garlic and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with a little sumac. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The recipe for this salad of leeks and carrots is from Turkish Cooking by Gülseren Ramazanoglu, an invaluable cookbook I bought many years ago from the Australia-Turkish Friendship Society.

Wash and cut 1-2 leeks into 4cm (1½”) lengths. Trim and cut 2-3 carrots into diagonal slices. Heat some olive oil in a heavy saucepan until very hot. Add the carrots and leeks and cook them for a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of long grain rice, some salt and a little sugar. If your carrots are very sweet just a pinch of sugar will do. Continue to cook and toss in the hot oil for a few more minutes before adding 1 – 1½ cups of boiling water. Reduce the heat, cover and allow to cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the leeks are quite soft. Transfer the salad to a serving dish, sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley and allow to cool. When cooled a little, add lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Written by michelle picker

January 29, 2020 at 12:08 am

cucumber and coconut salad

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Here’s a simple and wonderfully refreshing salad to serve with any South-East Asian dish.

First, and most importantly, buy a young coconut with very soft flesh. These can generally be bought already peeled and wrapped in plastic. Make 2 holes in the coconut and drain the water into a container. Break open the coconut and scoop the flesh out with a spoon before slicing finely. Slice some cucumber, also in long, thin slices and combine with the coconut. Add some very finely shredded kaffir lime leaves. Finally, for the dressing, combine some of the coconut water with lemon or lime juice and a little Vietnamese fish sauce to taste.

Written by michelle picker

January 8, 2020 at 12:15 am

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ayam taliwang + asinan

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This recipe, from Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia by Eleanor Ford, hails from Lombok and definitely lives up to being “everything you could hope for in grilled chicken”. Despite a few substitutions, the marinade, which also becomes the sauce, had flavour and heat from garlic and many chillies; sourness from lemon; fragrance from curry and lime leaf; depth of flavour from shrimp paste, oyster sauce and soy sauce and a great texture from coconut milk and almonds.

You need a flattened chicken for this recipe. Lay the chicken on it’s breast, cut down either side of the backbone and remove it. Flip the chicken over again and press it flat. Rub it with a little oil, season it with salt and allow it to come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce heat some oil in a frypan and add 5 large red chillies (cut in half lengthwise and seeded), 2 birdseye chillies, 2 whole dried chillies, a few slices of galangal (or ginger if you don’t have galangal), 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste, 10 whole cloves of garlic and 10 blanched almonds. Cook until the garlic begins to brown then remove everything to a blender, add a pinch of salt and some water (up to 1 cup) and process to a smooth consistency. Return to the pan with 2 kaffir lime leaves and 10 curry leaves and cook until the sauce thickens. Turn the heat down and add 2 tablespoons each of oyster sauce, soy sauce and coconut milk. Simmer for a few minutes more then remove from the heat. Place ¾ of the sauce in a serving bowl, adding the juice of half a lemon. To the pan add some more oil to make a marinade for the chicken. Paint the marinade on the chicken and cook on a barbecue, turning and basting, until the juices run clear when you insert a knife into the thickest part of the chicken or when the internal temperature reaches 74ºC (165ºF). Allow the chicken to rest before serving with the extra sauce.

As a side dish I served Asinan, an Indonesian raw vegetable salad which hails from Jakarta and is related to the popular Thai salad Som Tam. Like its counterpart it’s sometimes made with fresh green papaya but I made my version with what was in my fridge. The recipe is from the cookbook South East Asian Food by Rosemary Brissenden.

Finely shred carrots, cucumber and cabbage and refrigerate them to keep them crisp. Meanwhile, for the dressing heat 1 tablespoon of sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until the sugar is dissolved and then allow it to cool. Soak 1½ tablespoons of dried shrimp in hot water for a minute. Drain the shrimp and together with 2 small sliced red chillies pound or blend them to a rough paste. Add the sugar water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, salt to taste and enough water to make a good consistency. Toss the dressing through the salad. Just before serving add 3 tablespoons of roughly chopped roasted peanuts.

Written by michelle picker

January 1, 2020 at 12:02 am

gado gado 2.0

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My first version of gado gado is a little westernised (not such a bad thing) and makes a great meal on it’s own. This recipe, from Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia by Eleanor Ford, is a lighter version with a fresher peanut dressing which is served underneath the other ingredients in the traditional manner. It makes an excellent side dish.

First boil 2-3 eggs to your taste (soft-boiled or hard) then shock them in icy cold water and set aside. Next, heat a generous amount of peanut oil (or similar) in a frypan and fry 150g (5½ oz) of cubed silken tofu. When the tofu is browned set it aside. For the salad the recipes suggests these vegetables: 100g (3½ oz) of snake beans or green beans, 2 bok choy, a large handful of water spinach (a.k.a. river spinach, water morning glory, water convolvulus or kangkong), ¼ of a Chinese cabbage and 2 handfuls of beansprouts. I intended to use all of these but forgot to buy bean sprouts. Prepare the beans and cut them into shorter lengths, cut the cabbage into large slices , if the bok choy is large separate the leaves and chop the water spinach into shorter lengths. Place each vegetable into the boiling water and cook until just tender. Use a spider or a sieve to remove each vegetable from the boiling water and stop them cooking by running under cold water. To make the sauce combine 75g (½ a cup) of unsweetened peanut butter with 1 clove of crushed garlic, ½ a teaspoon of salt, ½ a teaspoon of shaved dark palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) and the juice of a kaffir lime or ½ a lime. Mix well to combine and thin a little with water until you have a consistency you like. Add 2 teaspoons of fried shallots and stir through. To assemble spread the peanut dressing over your serving plate and arrange the vegetables over it. Top with tofu and egg segments.

Written by michelle picker

October 30, 2019 at 12:10 am

red lentil pasta + salad

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Red lentils are an excellent source of protein and this vegetarian pasta is satisfying and so full of flavour.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 finely diced onion, 1 finely diced carrot and an equivalent amount of finely diced celery. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes. Deglaze the pan with some white wine and cook it all away. Now add a tin of chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Add 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, ¾ of a cup of red lentils and some chopped green olives to taste. Bring to boil and simmer until the lentils are cooked, adding more water as necessary. Season with salt to taste and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce adding some pasta water until the sauce sticks well to the pasta. Serve with a generous sprinkling of feta cheese. 

I served mine with a fresh salad of spinach, zucchini and pine nuts with a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

Written by michelle picker

August 7, 2019 at 12:12 am