Tag Archives: Herbs

A Soup for Summer

Summer Vegetable Nage

Summer Soup A-Swimming

For the past two years I have been experimenting with poaching. I have poached chicken, fish and even lamb. I love the tenderness that poaching lends meat, and it makes it really difficult (though not impossible) to  over cook.

The basis of a really good poached dish is the poaching liquid itself. This can be really simple, such as using water and maybe a few drops of vinegar when poaching eggs. More commonly, the poaching liquor, or nage is used to impart flavour and herbal notes to the thing you are poaching.

Nage comes from the French verb nager: to swim. The basis is a really good stock, and probably adding extra vegetables, which are then discarded.

Lately, nage has come to mean a delicate broth that gets served with the dish, but that can hold its own on the plate. The vegetables that were added for flavour are usually still removed. I hate wasting perfectly good food like this, and have been thinking that the basis of a poaching nage would make a delicious soup in its own right.

I had a vegetarian friend coming to dinner, the weather was stuffy, and I had broad beans, peas and herbs reaching their peak in the garden. I decided that I would experiment. The peas and beans should impart their soft sweet taste of summer, and the other vegetables needed a little bite. Unless you have few teeth, soft mushy vegetables are not pleasant, and certainly not what I wanted to represent a light summer soup. I served this dish as a delicate starter.

One of the herbs that I have in my garden is chervil. This delicate herb is often quite difficult to find in shops or markets in the Netherlands and the UK, but it really easy to grow, in the garden or on a windowsill. It has a delicate aniseed flavour but it really can add a lot to a salad, soup, fish or chicken dish, and will add a lot to a herb sauce. I really recommend that you have a go at growing this delightful little herb.

Herbs on a Saturday Challenge badge

Because I have used chervil and parsley in the soup, I am entering it in the June Herbs on Saturday, hosted by Karen Burns Booth at Lavender and Lovage. I really feel that this summery dish really captures the light herbal notes that are perfect for June.

The lemon zest trick was inspired by Nathan Outlaw, I think, but I’m not really sure where it came from. Don’t miss out that step though, it is important.

This soup really needs a good stock. You won’t be able to make it with a powder or a stock cube, it will be far too salty, and will also take away from the light herb flavours. Luckily, using the trimmings from the vegetables from this dish and a cabbage leaf or two, you can make a really good stock to use as the basis of the dish, with no waste. You definitely won’t regret it.

Recipe: Summer Vegetable and Herb Nage

Ingredients

Juice and zest of a lemon

700 ml of good quality vegetable stock (no cubes please)

100 g peas, shelled weight

200 g broad beans, shelled weight

2 shallots, finely chopped

4 summer carrots, finely chopped

1 bulb florence fennel, tough outer leaves removed and finely chopped

4 sprigs chervil, finely chopped (including stalks)

Small bunch curly leaf parsley, finely chopped (including stalks)

Any fronds from the fennel, finely chopped.

Salt to season

Method

Cook the lemon zest in a dry pan until you can smell the essential oils have been released. You will need to keep stirring, to help prevent burning.

Add the stock to the pan, and bring it to boiling point. Then lower the heat and simmer it for five minutes. Take it off the heat, and let it cool.

Cook the beans and the peas in unsalted boiling water. You can use the same pan, if you like, but the peas will need to go in after the beans have been cooking for a couple of minutes. Please take care not to over cook the vegetables. They really only need minutes, although the exact time will depend on their size. You will definitely not need longer than five minutes, even for large beans.

When cooked, drain the vegetables, and run them under a cold tap, or add to an ice bath to stop them cooking any further. Double-pod any broad beans bigger than half a centimetre in length. I know that this can seem like a hassle, but it really is necessary, and will give a much better balance of flavour overall.

When the stock is completely cold, add the lemon juice.

The next stages are very quick, so as not to overcook the vegetables, so please make sure that you have done all the chopping, don’t be tempted to continue chopping stuff while something  else cooks.

Soften the shallots for a minute or two on a low heat. You don’t really want the flavour of your best extra virgin olive oil here, so use a light olive oil, or sunflower oil. Be very careful, shallots can catch quickly, and you don’t want them to even start to colour. Keep stirring them.

Add the carrot and the fennel to the shallot, and sweat them all off for a minute, again, not allowing them to colour.

Add the cold stock, and bring it up to boiling point. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften. This will take no longer than five minutes, as the vegetable pieces should be quite small.

Taste and season with a little salt if you need to. You don’t need pepper for this dish, it will totally change the delicate balance of the flavours.

Add the peas and beans, and simmer for about a minute to allow them to warm, but not really cook more.

Finally, stir through the chopped herbs and serve this light, refreshing summer soup immediately.

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A Very British Affair

Salmon Fishcakes with tabbouleh, sauce grib-ish and a green salad

A Succulent Summer Plate

This past week, I have been in the UK again, mostly for my Mum’s birthday. We had a lovely weekend, starting with a bracing walk around the old English towns of Burnham on Sea and Weston Super Mare. Unfortunately, we also went on days when almost the entirety of both towns were closed, probably due to the weather. We still managed to have some lovely fish and chips, and an ice cream. And a poke around the end-of-pier arcades, but that really was mostly to get out of the wind for a bit.

Last week, I also noticed that Liz Knight of Forage was going to be doing a family forage at the Tudor Farmhouse Market  in Clearwell in the Forest of Dean. As that is pretty close to where my parents are, and it is a beautiful place to go, I cheekily asked if they would take a family with grown up kids. When they kindly agreed, I had a plan for Sunday too.  We enjoyed a short walk around the grounds of the hotel, and picked up loads of delicious treats, and all of us learned about things that we didn’t know were edible. There were also local food producers and a folk duo playing live.

As you know from yesterday’s post, Liz has been very helpful over Twitter, so it was lovely to meet her in person. She is so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, as well as being great with all the kids that came. She kept everyone engaged on the walk. There were bread and syrup making demonstrations afterwards, using our bounty. Liz runs a number of foraging walks and classes, so you could look out for them, I guarantee that you will learn a lot.

We also had a barbecue for Mum’s friends and family. I was happy to lend a hand with home-made burgers, salads, and dips. Many of them will appear here soon, but I have so many things to post that they may be over the course of a few weeks.

The important thing is that she enjoyed herself, and there were actually few leftovers. This is a good thing, but you do know how I love using up leftovers. My dad had baked a salmon, and there were a few new potatoes that we had cooked up in their skins, in water with a few mint leaves in it. We served these simply in butter. What better way to use these ingredients up than to have fishcakes?

No Waste Food Challenge by Turquoise Lemons

This is also my entry to this Month’s No Waste Food Challenge, hosted by Turquoise Lemons. For June, Kate is challenging us to produce a recipe using leftovers of any kind. This entire meal was to use up the leftovers from the barbecue, with only the addition of freshly cut herbs for the fishcakes, so it definitely qualifies.

I served the fishcakes with tabbouleh, sauce grib-ish, and a fresh salad. A perfect way to round up a birthday weekend. And at last the sun had arrived, so we ate this meal in the garden.

Prepared Salmon Fish Cakes

Pat-a-Fishcake

Recipe: Baked Salmon

Ingredients

1 whole salmon*, gutted and cleaned.

4-5 sprigs tarragon

Small bunch flat leaf parsley

Cucumber, sliced

Butter, softened enough to be able to brush on the delicate fish

Method

Check that the salmon will fit into your oven, on a baking sheet. If you are having problems, then you can remove the head or the tail, or both. I like to leave the head on if I can, the cheek meat is the cook’s treat.

Pre-heat the oven. Dad just says a low oven. I would suggest that this is no higher than 160°C.

Place the herbs and the cucumber in the cavity of the fish, and season to taste.

Brush the fish with butter, then wrap it in foil, as you would for cooking en papillotte (the parcel making starts at 2.16). Place the parcel on the baking sheet, and cook in the oven until the fish is just done. Exact times will depend on the size of your fish. As a guide, our fish was 1.3 kg and took about 40 mins in a low gas oven.

This gives a lovely, moist fish, that is delicious hot or cold, served on the bone.

Recipe: Salmon Fishcakes

As this is intended to use leftovers, this is more a guideline than a recipe, so I have listed the ingredients, but not the amounts, use up what you have.

New potatoes, boiled, or leftover mashed potatoes

Cooked salmon

Cream Cheese

Parsley, finely chopped

Method

The next day, I had about 7-8 new potatoes (not the really tiny ones). I peeled them, then heated them up in the remainder of the butter. New potatoes are not the best kind to use for mash, but when they were warm, they mashed really well. I added a scant tablespoonful of cream cheese to help bind it. Horseradish cream would also have been great, but my Dad won’t eat that.

Remove skin and any bones from the salmon, and flake it into large chunks.

Mix the mashed potato, fish and herbs, until they are well combined. Form into patties by rolling balls in your hands, then flattening and shaping on a chopping board.

I had worried that the new potatoes wouldn’t mash too well, so I was going to coat them in breadcrumbs to help. As this wasn’t needed, I decided just to fry them in a little oil until they were browned on both sides.

These fishcakes will keep in the fridge for a few days, and they also freeze well.

*When sourcing a salmon, due to recent overfishing, it is better to get a farmed  one. Fish farming can have serious environmental issues, particularly where the fish are fed other fish by-products and are routinely fed antibiotics (mostly required in overcrowded nets). In order to avoid this, please look for organic farms, that feed a plant-based diet. This is what the Marine Conservation Society have to say on the issue.

NB: This is not a sponsored post, I mention Forage and the Tudor Farmhouse because I really enjoyed the experience.

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Tabouleh or not Tabouleh?

That is the question.

Winter Vegetable Tabouleh

Salad as Substantial

The snow caught me out last week. I knew it was coming towards the end of the week, but it arrived a few days early, was preceded by a very hard frost, and caught me on the hop. I hadn’t harvested my salad greens, and they have been under a really good coating of snow ever since. I did manage to get the solitary fennel bulb that I had left, and had that in a risotto, so it didn’t make a salad.

I had also not got round to sowing microgreens, although I have now corrected that. I am waiting on radish, rocket, basil, chervil and beetroot to sprout and grow their first true leaves.

Sprouted Chickpea Bread

Salad as Bread

My poor planning left me with no other choice but to go for sprouted seeds. I put a sprouting mix (which looked like it contained chickpeas, aduki beans and lentils), and some separate chickpeas to work. I followed many of the other bloggers, who have been sprouting seeds for weeks now. Inspired by Joanna, who commented on the blog of Gilly in Ariege, I made bread with the chickpeas, and then added the mix to a sandwich that I made with it. I hope to share the bread recipe, but it needs a bit of work first.

Sprouted Salad Sandwich

Salad as a Sandwich

As last week was all about the sprouts, this week has been filled with thoughts of using flat leaf parsley. I have two pots that I sowed last year, which live on my windowsill, so that I always have access to parsley. The cold weather left me wanting, and with a desire for something more substantial than sprouted seeds.

I kept coming back to the idea of a tabouleh. They should be really leafy, and vibrant with flat leaf parsley, fine bulgur wheat, tomatoes and onions. Most commonly found as part of a mezze, it cleanses the palate, and is a fresh and light dish.

I already knew that I was going to make a lot of changes, because I wanted a more substantial dish, I didn’t have enough parsley to make it the star, and tomatoes are not in season. In addition to all of this, I had some pumpkin and an aubergine to use up, so the focus shifted to a more winter-based dish.

The dish still had the vibrancy from the parsley, but it also had bulk from using larger bulgur wheat, and winter warmth from using cooked vegetables and the spice. But, is it tabouleh?

Ingredients

Half a small pumpkin

Few sprigs of thyme

2 Garlic cloves

Small pinch of chilli flakes

Vegetable oil for roasting and frying

Aubergine

150 g Bulgur wheat

300 ml Vegetable stock

2 tbsp Lemon juice

Zest of ½ a lemon, finely grated

Extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp Sumac

Large bunch of flat leaf parsley, stalks removed & roughly chopped

Peel & deseed the pumpkin, and chop it into small dice. Put it into an oven proof dish, sprinkle with chilli flakes, thyme leaves and salt and pepper, and a splash of oil, along with a garlic clove still in its paper. Give it a good toss around, so that the oil and chilli can coat the pumpkin. Stick it into an oven at 180°C and leave it to roast until the rest of the ingredients are ready.

Chop the aubergine into small dice, of a similar size to the pumpkin. Heat a little oil in a frying pan. When the pan is hot, add the aubergine and cook until it is brown. You may need to add a little oil, as it is quite absorbent, but it will release liquid again as it cooks, so don’t add too much. You want this to fry, not braise. Don’t have the heat too high for this stage, let it fry gently.

Meanwhile, heat up the stock. When it is boiling, pour it over the bulgur wheat. The stock should cover the wheat by about a centimetre. Cover the bowl over, and set aside for about 15 minutes, During which time the bulgur will cook and absorb the stock.

Finely mince the second clove of garlic. You will need this a bit later.

Make a citrus vinaigrette with the lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil. I always start with the lemon juice, and then slowly pour in the oil, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. I taste it regularly to see when I have a good balance between oil and citrus. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour some over the bulgur wheat. Set aside for another 10 minutes, so the bulgur can take on the vinaigrette flavour.

Don’t worry if you have a bit of dressing left over, it keeps well in the fridge in a sealed jam jar. You could use it on next week’s salad challenge!

While the bulgur wheat is soaking up the vinaigrette, add the minced garlic to the aubergine, which should be nicely browned by now. The garlic will not take that long to cook, and will give the aubergine flavour.

Stir the aubergine and the pumpkin into the bulgur wheat, with a half teaspoon of sumac, the lemon zest, and the roasted garlic, which you should now be able to squeeze from its papery jacket. Stir through the parsley, and serve immediately.

I served mine with some sautéed mushrooms and leeks. It might not strictly be a salad, and it is definitely not a traditional tabouleh, but it was warm and satisfying, which was just what I needed tonight.

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A Pho for Tết

Vietnamese Pho

Pho what a lovely soup!

Yesterday was the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by the Chinese, Korean, Bhutanese and Vietnamese cultures. It marks the first new moon of the first  lunar month. There will have been celebrations wherever there are communities of these cultures. They are also traditionally times for family, so there is even more reason to celebrate.

What better way to kick start my own New Year’s Resolutions than to jump right in at Lunar New Year and have a go at some asian food? I have eaten a lot of Chinese and Vietnamese food, so I thought that this is where I shoud start on this quest. Never one to make things easy for myself, I decided to have a go at Hom Bao (steamed buns) from scratch, but that will feature in my next post.

Because the Hom Bao would take up a lot of time, I decided to go simple with the Vietnamese dish. Pho in one kind or another is a staple dish, and it seems that every Vietnamese household has a recipe. I can’t say how authentic this is, but this is my version.

I chose Pho because it has lovely clean flavours, but also because it is a versatile recipe that is easy to adapt to local ingredients. The fact that I was ready to go with some chicken stock may also have helped in the decision, but I can’t say for certain!

Feel free to adapt the recipe below. Obviously, I used a meat stock, which gives the soup a big umami hit.  I have made a version of this soup with different vegetables and with beef stock before. The essential ingredients are the noodles, the chilli, the coriander, the lime and the asian spices and seasonings, to be honest. Use what you have, use stuff from the garden, or from the bottom of the fridge. You will still end up with a really tasty and filling soup. The amounts given here will serve 2.

If you celebrated yesterday, Vietnamese style, chúc mừng năm mới!

Recipe: Vietnamese Pho

Ingredients

500 ml decent chicken stock. Rich, homemade stock if you can – it isn’t hard to do, and the results will be worth it. If you really, absolutely must, use the stock you can buy from the chiller cabinet, don’t try this with a stock cube.

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

5 cm root ginger, cut in half lengthways

1 red chilli, cut on a diagonal. Use whatever strength of chilli you can handle. If you really don’t like spicy food, don’t use a whole chilli, but you need at least a little.

Roots or stems of a small bunch of coriander

2 tbsp fish sauce (nước mắm)

3 tbsp Tamari Soy

Juice ½ lime

100g shitake mushrooms

50 g oyster mushrooms

2 servings rice noodles

20 g bean sprouts

½ red pepper (paprika)

2 carrots

A few mange touts

2 Spring onions

Some coriander leaves

Some mint leaves (if you can get vietnamese mint, so much the better), cut into a chiffonade.

Lime juice,  and pepper to season

Method

Add the cinnamon, star anise, ginger, chilli, fish sauce, soy and lime to the stock, and heat it gently. If you have coriander roots, scrape them clean, then press them with the flat of a knife to flatten them before adding to the soup. If you only have coriander stalks, cut them very finely, them add to the soup. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, while you thinly slice the mushrooms. Add these to the soup and continue to simmer.

Meanwhile, julienne the carrot and the red pepper, so that the pieces are all of equal size. if you can get them really thin, you won’t need to cook them later. Halve the mange tout, and thinly slice the spring onion, both on the diagonal.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and refresh under the cold tap. Divide the noodles between two deep bowls. Add some bean sprouts over the top of the noodles, and the spring onions and mange touts over that.

Remove the spices and ginger from the soup. If you have sliced up the vegetables into fine matchsticks, there is no need to cook them, so add them to the deep bowls. If you have not managed such small vegetables, then add them into the soup and cook for a minute or two.

Season to taste. The most important seasoning here will be the lime juice, which will balance the saltiness of the fish and tamari sauces. You may need a little or a lot, so it is important to tase before and during its addition.

Ladle the soup over the noodles. It is important that it is steaming hot, but not boiling. Sprinkle over the corander and mint, and serve immediately with chopsticks and a spoon.

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Perusing the Prahran Market, Melbourne

Prahran Market Stalls

Plenty

I do love a good food market. On our recent trip to Australia, we found ourselves in the Prahran market in Melbourne. It is the oldest market in Australia, although, of course, other markets are available.

The stalls heave with fruits and vegetables. There are butchers and fishmongers, organic stalls and delis, cafés and street food. There are specialist stalls for wine, coffee, tea, chocolate, ice cream, pasta, asian products, you name it.

If it weren’t for the Big Guy’s relatively low capacity for putting up with my geekery (well, we did manage to stay here a good couple of hours, so perhaps that is a little harsh…), I could stay in a place like this all day, wandering around, sampling the produce, chatting to people, and planning meals from all the things I found.

Instead, we purchased some items for a good lunch, and some more of the lovely summer fruits that were in season. These included some small pears, the name of which I forgot to note down, but they were delicious. Really sweet, and not at all grainy, like larger pears can sometimes be.

Pacific Oysters from Prahran Markets

A Well-Earned Breakfast

We also picked up a dozen Native Oysters. I first tried oysters about ten years ago, when I shared a dozen with a boy I was trying to impress (this was about a year before I met the Big Guy). My love of oysters has lasted far longer than that particular infatuation!

I enjoy oysters from all over the globe, especially when I happen to find some on a beach forage. But Native Oysters are really the best, as they are creamier and meatier than their North Sea counterpart. I prefer them raw as opposed to grilled with a topping, like in Oysters Rockerfeller, or Kilpatrick. I just feel that this is gilding the lily, and something this good does not really need embellishment further than a squeeze of lemon, or a splash of champagne, if you want to push the boat out!

I have already mentioned the importance of checking out your seafood before you buy it. Our oceans are a precious resource, and currently, they are being exploited horribly, with no real eye to the future of fish stocks, or the fishing industry itself. Damaging catch methods are putting species at risk, as well as destroying the habitat where they live and breed, and catching fish and sea mammals that were not the intended catch, meaning that they are thrown back, often dead or dying. It is so important to make sure that you are not adding to the problem and supporting these practices by eating unsustainably harvested fish.

Luckily, like a lot of shellfish (but not all), the oysters are sustainably managed and harvested.  As are the Blue Mussels that we also picked up, along with the rest of the ingredients for this tasty little lunch:

Mussels with Pasta

Market Dinner

Recipe: Mussels Pasta

Ingredients

1 kg mussels

Glass of white wine

1 garlic clove, minced with a little salt

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

A little oil for frying

Juice and zest of one lemon

Bunch chervil, finely chopped

Bunch tarragon, leaves removed from stalks and finely chopped

Bunch parsley, finely chopped

2 serves linguine, fresh from the Pasta Shop, if you are in Melbourne

Method

Prepare the mussels. Remove the “beard”, which is the green fibrous stuff at the pointy end, it will come away if you tug it. Of course, with any shellfish, you need to be sure that you are getting them alive. If any of the shells are cracked, then discard them. I hate waste, but not even I will mess with this one, because dead mussels decay quickly, and you risk a nasty case of food poisoning. If any of the shells are open, give them a sharp tap on the counter. If they do not close,  then discard them. Give them all a good rinse, to eliminate any grit, but don’t leave them soaking in fresh water, because they may die.

Prepare the herbs, lemon, chilli and garlic. If you have dried pasta, you will need to get this going now, and cook according to packet instructions. Get it to the point where it has five minutes left to cook before you move onto the mussels.

We got fresh pasta from the Pasta Shop in the market, if you are using fresh pasta, just get the pot of salted water on a rolling boil. It is fine to cheat, and boil the water in a kettle beforehand.

Heat a little oil in a large pan, and fry the garlic and chilli in it for a couple of minutes, until the scent fills the air. Add the mussels, wine lemon juice, herbs and zest to the pan. Cover and allow to cook.

If you are using fresh pasta, then add it to the boiling water now.

When the pasta (either variety) is finished, drain, but keep some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the mussels, which should mostly all be open by now. Give it a good stir around for a minute or two on the hob. If the mixture is dry, add some of the pasta water, although I would try to avoid this if possible. The liquor in the pan is aniseedy and soupy from the herbs, and you risk diluting its delicate flavour.

Have a quick check for any mussels that have not opened. There is  some debate as to whether these are safe to eat, but I really think that the risk is not worth it. I recommend that you discard any unopened mussels.

Serve in deep bowls, making sure that you get a good ladleful of the herby juice in each bowl.

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Aussie Christmas dinner

Moreton Bay Bugs & Thai Salad

Alternative Christmas Dinner

We are in Australia. Posting may be sporadic, but I do want to do my Christmas dinner, and custard based recipes. I may well leave the acceptable way with sprouts post, that I have not really written yet, to next Christmas now!

Anyway, this year we are having Christmas by ourselves in Cairns. An Aussie Christmas has to have seafood, and should also include a barbecue somewhere in the proceedings. We were very lucky indeed, and also had access to a pool and an entire rainforest to ourselves, since no one else was about. All in all, it was a pretty brilliant day.

We were lucky enough to get hold of some Moreton Bay Bugs, which are actually a kind of slipper lobster. Most Moreton Bay Bugs are caught as by-catch from the prawn and scallop fishing industries, both of which are trawled for. Trawling is a highly destructive practice, resulting in a lot of unintended species netted (bycatch) and destruction of the sea bed. The Australian Marine Conservation Society urges you to ‘Think Twice‘ before eating them, largely as a result of the catch method involved. We found a fish market that claimed that they were sustainably caught. It is possible to scuba dive for these, as it is for scallops, but these are very difficult to find.

Moreton Bay Bugs

Green Bugs

Anyway, if you do get them, you need green (uncooked) bugs if you want to barbecue them. They cannot live long out of water, and spoil much quicker than crabs or lobster, so this may not be easy. Never reheat them, so if all you can get is cooked, just eat them cold.

In North Queensland, fresh (and ripe!) tropical fruits are sold all over the place. They are cheap and plentiful. I had been thinking that mango, papaya, chili and lime would be perfect partners for the sweetness of the bugs, which naturally leads you to Thai flavours. They typically use green papaya, and I only had ripe, but I made do with what I had.

I hope that I am not one for boasting, but the result was really good. I was very proud of our tasty little Christmas Dinner.

I have given the recipe below, but if you cannot find Moreton Bay Bugs, you could substitute with scallops, langoustines, or even lobster if you are feeling decadent! Just please check out how they are caught, and try to get sustainably caught and managed fish where you can – the ocean is an important source of food for us, and keeps a lot of communities going, but only if we look after it well. Something which is sadly not happening too much these days.Your local Marine Conservation Society can help  give you an idea of fish stocks and some sustainably managed areas (although their system is not perfect). If you don’t have this, then organisations like Greenpeace can tell you which species to avoid altogether.

If you can’t or won’t get any of these, just have the salad – it is really tasty on its own.

Recipe: Moreton Bay Bugs and Vietnamese Salad

Ingredients

Moreton Bay Bugs – 3 per person

For the salad dressing:

1 small hot chilli (eg bird’s eye)

2 cloves garlic

4 tbsp lime juice

4 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1 tbsp coriander stalks

1 tbsp mint leaves

For the salad:

Mixed salad leaves

Asparagus

Cucumber

Beansprouts

Coriander leaves

Mint leaves

Papaya

Chopped, unsalted peanuts

For the noodles:

1 pack noodles

1 spring onion

chopped chilli

lime vinaigrette

Method

Make the salad dressing. Mix the lime, fish sauce and the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. Mince the garlic using your knife, deseed the chilli (or leave them in if you like things really hot) and chop it finely. Chop the coriander stalks and mint leaves as finely as you can. Add all of these to the lime mix, and taste for balance, you may need to add a touch more lime or chilli, to your taste. Set aside for the flavours to develop.

A short period of time in the freezer should be enough to kill the bugs humanely. Slice the bugs in half, lengthways, with a sharp knife. You will then need to clean the digestive tract and the head.

Make the salad, by mixing up the salad leaves, a good bunch of coriander, a handful of mint leaves, and julienned cucumber and papaya. Wash the beansprouts well, before adding them, and blanch the asparagus, and cut the stalks into 3-4 pieces, on the angle. I would also have added grated carrot, but we managed to lose the carrots somewhere between the shop and home, so no carrots for us.  Mix together well, and set aside.

Oil the flesh of the bugs, with a squeeze of lime, and place on a hot barbecue, flesh side down for about 8 minutes. Then flip them to colour the shells. They are done when the flesh becomes opaque.

Meanwhile, make the noodles according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Thinly slice the spring onion and the chilli and add to the vinaigrette. I had a very simple lime vinaigrette left over from the previous day’s lunch, but you can make up your own with 1 part lime juice to 3 parts olive oil. Leave the chilli and the onion to macerate to take the raw edge off them. When the noodles are cooked, drain, and pour over the vinaigrette, and mix well, so that the noodles don’t stick.

When everything is cooked, dress the salad with the dressing you made earlier, and toss together well. Plate up the noodles and the salad, and sprinkle with chopped, unsalted peanuts. Serve with the warm bugs, and a cold glass of wine. Next to a pool in the tropics, by preference.

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