Category Archives: Fish dishes

Crispy Noodle Fish Cakes

The most challenging aspect of these Thai inspired crispy noodle fish cakes is getting the noodles out of the packet and into the bowl!

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Mung bean vermicelli, also known as glass noodles are like bailer twine, almost impossible to break. I use scissors but they still ping all over the place

Once the noodles have been soaked  the rest of the ingredients only have to be whacked into the food processor to make a paste. They are truly delicious and guaranteed to get the ummm of approval.

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Crispy Noodle Fish Cakes

600g white fish such as hake or haddock

75g glass noodles/mung bean vermicelli

2 stems lemongrass

2 cloves garlic

2cm piece fresh ginger

3-4 spring onions,

a handful fresh coriander

2tbs Thai fish sauce

1 egg

Put the noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 5 minutes

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Drain the noodles and snip into small pled pieces with a pair of scissors.

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Chop the lemongrass, peel and chop the ginger and garlic then put them into a food processor and buzz to a puree. Keep the motor running, chop the fish into chunks and post down the chute into the processor then add 2tbs fish sauce. This should all buzz to a thick paste. Add the egg then tip into a bowl.

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Chop the spring onions and coriander.

Mix the noodles, spring onions and coriander through the fish paste.

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Wet your hands and form the paste into small balls.

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Heat a large frying pan, add enough oil to just cover the bottom. Put the fish balls into the pan and gently flatten a little. Don’t overcrowd the pan, you’ll probably have to cook 2 or 3 batches. Leave to cook for 3-4 minutes each side on medium high heat. Don’t fiddle about with them, wait until there is a good crust before turning and cooking the other side.

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Serve with dipping sauce or sweet chill sauce

makes approx 15  fish cakes.

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Dipping Sauce

3tbs lime juice

2tbs fish sauce

2-3 chillies

2 cloves garlic

1dsp sugar

Pell and chop the garlic, chop the chillies then mix together with the other ingredients.


Feta, Feta, Everywhere!

If Ireland’s the land of green grass, butter and Guinness then Greece has to be the land of feta and ouzo.
We arrived in Athens yesterday evening and took a ferry to the island of Syros this morning. We’re kind of travelling blind – not really knowing very much about Syros – but it came highly recommended by some friends who introduced us to some people that wanted to do a house swop.This was an irresistible idea. The last time I was in Greece was more than thirty years ago and I remember delicious grilled octopus – probably my first -and having to learn how to say coffee without sugar as all the coffee was made in the traditional way with heaps of sugar. It’s the only Greek that I remember – kafé sketo!
The ferries that go between the islands are huge but they’re not crowded in May. It’s a nearly four hour trip, with lots of rough sea which which could hardly feel, as the ferries are so big. At one point it lashed rain but as the boat approached land the sun appeared and we could see the town hugging the harbour with pastel coloured houses climbing up the hill behind.

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Kostas, our host was waiting on the square as pre arranged and we climbed the steps through the town to where we are staying. The house is stunning. Built in 1870 and recently renovated by our new friends. It has everything that we need and a sunny terrace which is where I am sitting whilst I write this.
We dumped our bags and wandered back down the steps in search of lunch – we have been given several recommendations- a very big plus of house exchanging – and soon found ourselves sitting in a little street on a comfortable terrace. It was a little bit tricky establishing whether we had arrived at the correct taverna as everything is written in Greek – naturally enough – and we can’t read Greek but Con dragged out some morsels of knowledge from his youth and we figured we were in the right place so we sat down and looked at the blackboard menu. It was Greek!

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The waitress soon appeared with a bi-lingual menu.
Somehow each dish we chose had an element of feta. All completely different dishes but lots of feta. This is not a complaint, more an observation!
We started off with Greek salad. Very traditional but irresistible when in the land of sun ripened tomatoes and fresh feta. It arrived to the table, a mound of tomatoes, cucumber, onion and olives with slab of feta and capers on top.

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The olive oil and vinegar is on the table so you dress the salad yourself. We polished the salad off then the Giant beans baked in tomato sauce arrived – with feta. These were delicious, the tomato sauce was made with fresh oregano, bay leaves and whole allspice

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And the final course was a stuffed calamari – stuffed with tomato, wild fennel and feta.
After the beans this was bit over the top and it didn’t get as many brownie points but maybe that was because we were already quite full.

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We washed everything down with a carafe of the local white wine and felt very happy sitting there in the sun!

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Banh Xeo – Sizzling Pancakes

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Banh Xeo are the most delicious Vietnamese savoury pancakes. They are fried until crispy then rolled up in salad leaves with mint and dunked in dipping sauce before popping into your mouth
Guaranteed to make you swoon. Our family thought they’d died and gone to heaven when I made them for dinner. Just silence and appreciative grunts coming from the dinner table.
The pancake is made with rice flour, or a combo of rice and wheat flour mixed together with coconut milk, spring onion, egg and turmeric. This is whisked to a smooth batter. I made them with prawns, mushrooms and beansprouts but the filling is fairly free lance. Whatever you fancy but don’t put too much in as the pancake will be unmanageable when you flip it.
The inclusion of regular flour makes them more manageable for non coeliacs but the recipe works well both ways
Here’s the recipe

200g rice flour or combo of rice and regular flour
2tbs cornflour
1 egg
half tsp turmeric
a handful of chopped spring onion greens
150mls coconut milk
about 100mls water
half tsp salt

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the middle then crack in the egg and add the coconut milk.
Whisk everything together and thin with water until you have medium pouring consistency – like melted chocolate. Stir in the spring onions.
Leave to stand for at least 10 minutes

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For the filling
20 raw prawns – 2 for each pancake
250g mushrooms
250g bean sprouts
a little butter or oil to cook the mushrooms

Salad leaves – washed and spun
a big bunch of mint leaves

Heat a frying pan. Slice the mushrooms, drop a knob of butter or a glut of oil into the frying pan and add the mushrooms. Toss them well and cook on a high heat until they are cooked the way you like them. Season with a little salt and pepper and put aside.
To make the pancakes heat a small to medium size frying pan. Add a little oil and a couple of prawns, cook them for a couple of minutes – until they are pink- then add a few mushrooms. Drag the mushrooms and prawns to one side and pour in a small ladle of batter.

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The pancake should be thin like a crepe. Cook on a medium high heat for a couple of minutes then add a small pile if bean sprouts to the pancake and flip in half. Increase the heat to high and cook each side until crispy. You might want to add a little more oil.

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To serve the pancakes make a little dipping sauce

Dipping Sauce

3tbs Lime juice
2tbs Fish sauce/Nam Pla
1tbs water
2-3 Chillies
2 cloves garlic
1 dsp Sugar

Peel and chop the garlic and chop the chillies then mix together with all the other ingredients.

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Put the pancakes onto plates and break or cut a piece off and wrap it in a salad leaf with a couple of pieces of mint tucked in. Dunk in the dipping sauce and pop it in your mouth.

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Yum!


Cashew Nut Island

This recipe is coming from my hammock on a small Thai island in the Andaman Sea, close to Burma.

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It’s the place for an ultimate chill out. No roads, no retail therapy, no stress unless you have trouble deciding what to eat next. We have a simple hut on the beach made from woven bamboo, there’s a bed with large mosquito net, a bathroom with a toilet, a cold shower and a bucket for flushing the loo and best of all a deck with two hammocks which saves fighting over who gets to swing in the breeze.

The family that owns our hut look after everything. They get up early and sweep the leaves from the paths and the beach. they make delicious home cooked food any time you ask them and the pineapple shakes they make are to die for.

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It’s surprising how quickly the days drift away between swimming in the sea and wandering about the island.

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Most of the island is covered in dense jungle or patches of rubber palms and cashew nut trees.  To get a cashew nut from the tree to our plates is quite something, The  cashew nuts grow under the fruit, it’s known as an apple but looks more like a pear and the nut is dangerously inedible in its raw state.

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The fruit can be eaten or made into smoothies or booze but the nuts need a serious roasting before they can be eaten. The nut in the shell is surrounded by  a caustic liquid that would burn the top of your mouth off if eaten raw. The roasting has to take place outside as the fumes are toxic, it’s quite palaver so when you consider there’s only one nut on the bottom of each fruit, the price of a packet of cashews seems quite fair.

As you might imagine the cashew nuts are delicious and feature on every menu. You can have salad with cashew nuts, prawns with cashew nuts, stir fried veg with cashew nuts, the list is endless. We had grilled barracuda with ‘green apple sauce’ the other night. It sounded quite a bizarre combo so of course we had to try. It was julienned Granny Smiths with a little carrot, chilli, garlic and cashew nuts, all dressed with lime juice and nam pla. Stunning!

Here’s a recipe for a sweet and sour carrot salad – with cashew nuts. We went for a ‘day out’ to another area of the island and ate this for lunch.

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I thought it was delicious and as usual we puzzled over what could be in it when we found the recipe in May Kaidees Thai Vegetarian Cookbook sitting on the table right front of us. Here’s my translation

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Sweet and Sour Carrot Salad

2 tbs shredded coconut, soaked in cold water for 2 hours

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

75g cashew nuts

1 tbs sesame seeds

50g tofu

2tbs soya sauce -not dark

juice 1 lime

1 tomato- diced into big chunks

2-3 carrots, peeled and grated

Drain the shredded coconut.

Put the coconut, 25g of the cashews and the garlic in a mortar and pestle  and mash together to make a rough paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle pulse buzz in a food processor and keep scraping it down

Crumble the tofu with your hands

Toast the other 50g of cashews gently in a dry pan, put them aside then toast the sesame seeds until lightly golden.

Put the carrots into a large bowl and mix together with the coconut/cashew paste then add the chopped tomato, sesame seeds, crumbled tofu, lime juice and soya sauce. Toss everything together

Pile the salad on a plate and scatter the toasted cashew nuts on top

I think I’d be very tempted to put a chopped chilli or two in as well!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paella Friday

Friday night was paella night, cooked by our Catalan neighbour. He makes a mean paella. It was so good, and we were so hungry that we didn’t remember to take any photos until we had eaten. We have one phone pic of a nearly empty pan and a pic of the contents of the nearly empty pan on the late diners plate.

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In fact by Friday night, rebellion had started to take grip and the detox began to fall apart. Five of the six fell by the wayside and had a glass of Rioja with the paella. The sixth neighbour was late and the bottle was empty.

It was an interesting week. We discovered that eating wheat, dairy and sugar free wasn’t too difficult but the funny thing that happened was the amount of animal protein that we suddenly consumed. On a regular week we might eat fish once and this would depend who cooks on a Friday as that’s the day the fish man is at the market  – last week we had two fish dinners and a chorizo hit. Maybe it was the lack of snacks that made us want to eat like that, who knows.

The community dinners are continuing but without such strict restrictions!

We eat so well and with so many variations that it doesn’t seem to make sense to deprive ourselves of food that we aren’t allergic to, each dinner is like a trip to a restaurant. Long live community dinners I say – it sure beats trashing our own kitchen every night!

 

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Mangoes and Salmon

IMG_1009It’s funny how we give something up only to crave for something else. I don’t know what it was that bought this dinner on, apart from the delicious mango sauce, as we usually avoid eating salmon because it’s farmed. This used to be quite difficult when the salmon fishing ban first came in. I enjoy eating salmon now and then but apart from the very occasional wild salmon that is available in the summer season we normally boycott the farmed salmon as it’s unsustainable.  The detox diet has overcome that protest It  seems to have jumbled these ethics. All I could think of was grilled salmon with fresh mango sauce – a sublime combination – so that’s what we had for dinner last night.IMG_1002

Stir fried sprouting broccoli, sugar snaps and courgettes, and brown basmati on the side.

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Cutting out dairy, wheat and sugar doesn’t seem to be a problem on the what we really need to eat menu, i.e. breakfast, dinner, lunch. It’s the snacks and drinks that suddenly become inaccessible, most of what is in them is on the banned list. We seem to be snacking on an extraordinary amount of crisps.. We should probably put the crisps on the hit list as too many of them are definitely not good for you even if  they are wheat, dairy and sugar free

The mango sauce is the perfect fit for this kind of regime – the recipe has only ingredients that we can eat and it’s very simple to make. The difficult part might be finding the ripe mango but even green mangoes ripen in time so if it’s a bit hard, just stash it in the fruit bowl for a couple of days. Best put a large DO NOT EAT me sign on it if you don’t live alone to make sure someone else doesn’t discover it as it’s ready to go.

Mango Sauce

1 ripe mango

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 red chilli

3 cms ginger, peeled and chopped

2 lime leaves, (optional but very good), sliced very thinly

2 limes, juiced and also zested if you don’t have any lime leaves

75mls rapeseed or sunflower oil

1tbs nam pla (Thai fish sauce)

a handful of chopped coriander

Put everything except for the chopped coriander into a liquidiser or into jug and a hand held blender and buzz until smooth.

Stir in the chopped coriander and serve with grilled salmon or tuna – best cooked a little rare.

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