06 February 2015

{Bookshelf} Snapper Pan Fried with Turmeric & Dill from Luke Nguyen’s The Food of Vietnam

This is not actually on my bookshelf it’s on lone from Mr B, was actually last year’s birthday present for him. We’ve cooked quite a bit from here as love Vietnamese flavours; a favourite the seared scallops with tamari. lemongrass & chilli.  Fragrant, sweet, sour, hot.  The dipping sauce is divine & would be delicious on a myriad of dishes.  Simple too, just mix together tamari soy, lemon juice, chilli oil, garlic, sugar & kaffir lime.  It just packs such a flavourful punch.

Vietnamese is perfect for the tropical Summer we’ve been having being so bright & fresh & light & this snapper with turmeric & dill & a fresh crunchy salad caught my eye.  It is called “Cha Ca” & is a favourite dish in Hanoi; there is even a street named after it.  And if you’re lucky enough to get to Hanoi Luke recommends Cha Ca La Vong for the best cha ca.

Spring onion & garlic is mashed to a paste & mixed with turmeric, curry powder, yoghurt, fish sauce, shrimp paste, sugar & oil to marinade bite sized pieces of snapper along with a little dill.  It’s then quickly fried & served on top of a crunchy salad of bean sprouts, spring onion, dill & noodles & scattered with crushed roasted peanuts & even better it is drizzled with nuoc nam.

Nuoc nam is a favourite dipping tipple & there is usually a jar in the fridge. Great for fish or chicken to spice up your supper.  For quick & easy there’s Nadia Lim’s version that can be whipped up in a moment.  For Luke’s* more authentic version he heats fish, sauce, vinegar & sugar to just before boiling point & then cools & adds garlic, chilli & lime juice just before serving.

*3 tbsp fish sauce, 3 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 garlic cloves finely chopped, 1 red chilli finely chopped, 2 tbsp lime juice.

Snapper Pan Fried with Turmeric & Dill from Luke Nguyen’s The Food of Vietnam

Serves 4-6 as part of shared meal


500g (1lb) boneless snapper fillets
4 spring onions
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp red curry powder
250g (9oz) plain yoghurt
4 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp shrimp sauce
1.5 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 bunch dill
1 lemon, halved
100g (3.5oz) bean sprouts
100g (3.5oz) rice vermicelli noodles, cooked according to packet instructions
4 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
250ml (1 cup) nuoc nam sauce


Cut the snapper in to bite sized pieces, place in a bowl & set aside.  Cut off the roots of the spring onion & chop the whites & reserve the green stems.  Place the whites in a pestle & mortar with the garlic & pound it to a paste.

Add the spring onion paste to the fish & add the turmeric, curry powder, yoghurt, fish sauce, shrimp paste, sugar & 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Roughly chop one third of the dill & add it to the fish & gently mix it together.  Cover & place in the fridge to marinate for an hour.

Finely shred the spring onion greens & chop the rest of the dill & set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat & add the rest of the oil.  Fry the snapper, one minute on the first side & two minutes on the second side.  Squeeze in the lemon juice & cook for one more minute or until the fish cooked through.

Toss together the bean sprouts with the shredded spring onions, dill & noodles.  Place the salad on a platter, top with the snapper, scatter over the peanuts & drizzle with the nuoc nam& serve.  If like me you love the nuoc nam sauce serve a little bowl on the side for more dipping.

This one checks all the boxes.  Bright, fresh, aromatic, crunchy, nutty, spicy.


14 January 2015

{Bookshelf} Sweetcorn Slaw from Ottolenghi's Plenty More

This another Ottolenghi gem from Plenty More & it is perfect for those summer BBQs & the weather here in Auckland has been just perfect for BBQs these past few weeks.  Long sunny days & balmy evening. She was a long time coming but summer did arrive & it looks like she wants to hang around. She's been perfect for picnics; lazing around in parks under the dappled light of trees, fountains burbling away in the background, making daisy chains & watching the clouds drift past high above. 

Even better with a picnic basket full of all sorts of goodies from the the French Markets; fresh baked Pukeko Bakery kumura bread, perfectly ripe cheese; especially good a Gorgonzola Picante & a creamy buttery melt in the mouth goat cheese, a hummus spiked with smoked paprika, giant olives stuffed with chillies & feta & blue cheese & even a little salad as a token gesture to new year healthy.  And of course something a little chilled & white. Yes it could well be the summer of picnics if this weather keeps up.  We’re so lucky to have so many, parks, beaches & beautiful spots all over the city; you wouldn’t even need to leave Auckland for an endless summer of picnics.

This slaw takes us to Mexico.  And what’s not to love about Mexican flavours... smokey BBQ sweetcorn, chillies & coriander. And then it's all wrapped up in a sharp tangy dressing with dijon, lemon juice & garlic to give a summery Mexican twist on your usual slaw.

Sweetcorn Slaw, from Ottolenghi's Plenty More


For the salad 
100ml white vinegar 
1/4 white cabbage, shredded
3 small carrots, peeled & ribboned
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
4 corn cobs, lightly brushed with olive oil
2 red chillies, finely chopped
Bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Bunch of fresh mint leaves, chopped 
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

For the dressing 
50g mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
1.5 tsp rice bran or other neutral oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed


Place vinegar, 200ml of water  & 1 tablespoon of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil & remove from the heat. Place the cabbage & carrot in a medium bowl & pour over 2 thirds of the salty liquid & set aside to soften for 20 minutes. Pour the remaining liquid over the onion & set that aside for 20 minutes as well.  Rinse the vegetables & onion, pat dry, place in a large bowl & set aside.

Place a ridged griddle pan or BBQ on a high heat & when smoking hot add the corn.  Char grill for 10-12 minutes, turning every now & then so that all sides get a little colour. If griddling inside best to switch on extractor or open some windows!  Remove from the heat & when cool enough to handle cut off the kernels in clumps & add to the vegetables & onions.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad & gently mix it all together.  Add the chilli, coriander & mint, season with a little black pepper, one more gentle stir & serve.

This is indeed perfect for Summer.  Sweet smokey corn, creamy yet punchy dressing, a hit of chilli, fragrant coriander & fresh burst of mint.


04 January 2015

Ham & Spinach Tart

Happy New Year! 

May your coming year be filled with magic & dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to makes some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself".
Neil Gaiman

So far Auckland has put on a spectacular 2015. Sunshine & summer, as always, worth the wait.  In fact perhaps the wait makes us a little more appreciative of these beautiful days.

Along with beautiful sunny days the hamathon continues & the mountain gets a little smaller day by day. It may resemble a hill by next week!  It continued the other day with this tart. And this one is a keeper....well if you like cheese.  And what kind of person doesn’t like cheese??  This is ham & cheese taken to a whole new level.

Ham & cheese – inseparable companions. There’s the classic; the humble ham & cheese sandwich.  Toasted & with a splash of Worcestershire sauce it’s even better. And perhaps not so humble in France or Spain or Italy; cooked ham & emmental in crunchy baguettes in France, a crusty roll with manchego & jamon in Spain & perhaps prosciutto & pecorino panini in Italy.  If you want to really push the boat out head to France where there’s Croque Monsieur; a little béchamel added to the mix & perhaps a little Dijon.  That not enough for you try Croque Madame with the fried egg on top.

Ham & Spinach Tart, adapted from Jamie At Home

Quantities changed to suit my pie case & cheddar instead of Parmesan which made it ever so cheesy!


1/2 recipe savoury short crust pastry – see below.
A knob of butter
Olive oil
1 red onion, peeled & chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled & chopped
200g / 6oz spinach (you can also use nettles, Swiss chard or borage), washed, thick stems removed
A few sprigs of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked
Salt  & pepper
200g / 6oz crème fraîche
75g / 2.5oz cheddar cheese
2 eggs
100g / 3oz ham, diced


First, make your pastry (recipe below), wrap it in plastic wrap & rest it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Get the pastry out & roll it with a rolling pin between 2 sheets of baking paper* until about ½  centimetre thick & big enough to line your tart tin with a centimetre or so of an overhang. This was enough for my rectangle case (350mm x 110mm), but you can use round or any shape you like.

*avoids a floury mess!

Grease the tart tin & pop in the pastry. Press in to the tart tin & trim most of the excess off the edges, leaving a centimetre or so overhang. Prick the pastry all over with a fork & chill in the freezer for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/ 375F.

Remove the tart from the fridge & blind bake your pastry crust with rice or baking beans for 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Next, heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan & gently fry the onions on a low heat for 10 minutes until they're soft, sweet & translucent. 

Turn up the heat to medium & add the garlic, the spinach (in batches if your pan isn't big enough) & most of the marjoram. Season with a little salt & pepper & give it a good stir. Take the pan off the heat when the spinach has wilted; this will only take a couple of minutes. Set aside.

Next for the filling; place the crème fraîche into a bowl, stir in the grated cheddar, eggs & a pinch of salt & pepper.  Mix well together & set aside. To assemble the tart spread the spinach mixture over the bottom of your pastry case. Scatter over the ham & spoon the cheese mixture evenly over the top, smoothing it out with the back of the spoon & make sure it fills the whole pastry case. Scatter over the rest of the marjoram & pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbly & golden on top & the filling just set.

Jamie’s Best Ever Savoury Short Crust Pastry*

*have to agree here it is the best savoury pastry I’ve made.  Cheese like bacon makes just about everything better.

**tip….for shortcrust pastry – half fat to flour


500g / 18oz all-purpose /plain flour
200g / 7oz butter
50g / 2oz freshly grated cheddar cheese
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 eggs, beaten
A splash of milk
A little flour for dusting


Place the flour, butter, cheese & a pinch of salt into a food processor & pulse for 20-30 seconds, until the mixture is crumbly & fine. I used my trusty Russell Hobbs that did the job in no time at all.  Add the thyme leaves or your chosen flavouring….you could add paprika, pepper, lemon zest, rosemary, a little cayenne, a pinch of chilli flakes…endless options!
Pour in the eggs & add the milk. Pulse for a few more seconds until the mixture comes together; just together as you want to work the pastry as little as possible. Scoop your pastry dough out of the food processor & onto a clean, floured work surface & pat it a few times to make it more compact don't be tempted to knead it, again we want to work it as little as possible. When you have a flat round, wrap the dough in a plastic wrap & place it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

This is quite rich! Possibly an understatement…but oh my if you like cheese & ham this could be the definition of divine! And you can always have a little salad on the side with a sharp vinaigrette for balance. It will also help cut the richness of the tart! Crumbly, savoury, cheesy pastry & then the rich creamy cheese filling laden with that Christmas ham, oh & there’s a little spinach too.  See balance 😊


*For all things Russell Hobbs head over here.

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