Tag Archives: Vegetarian-adaptable

Red Lettuce Day

Thai Chicken, Mango and Noodle Salad

A spicy salad with a difference

Once a week, I volunteer at an Urbania Hoeve permaculture garden. It is great fun, and I am learning a lot. Another bonus is that I have been able to experience a number of different vegetables, as well as save the seeds from them to try them in my own garden.

As you can see from the salad photo, I have used nasturtium (leaves and flowers) in this salad. This is not new to me, I’ve been eating nasturtium for as long as I have been growing them.

Despite having called this post Red Lettuce Day, the two plants that I would like to talk about aren’t actually lettuces, but they are red, and plants that were new to me this year.

The first is Perilla, or Shiso (Perilla frutescens). Although I wasn’t aware of it, I have been looking for this plant since I went to Japan for work, and wanted to have a go at growing the fragrant leaf that you find in many of their broths and ramen. They translate it as morning glory, which I was very disappointed to find isn’t edible, after I had found and started to grow it.  Following a bit of a twitter storm earlier in the year, I found and grew the green version of this, and have been eating the red version from the permaculture garden.

I really love perilla in salads. It has a distinctive perfumed flavour, with a slight aniseed kick. It is a pretty strong herb, so you don’t need a lot of this to provide you with a lot of flavour. It is also good in broths and gravies, and is used a lot in pickles in Japanese cookery.

Orache (Atriplex hortensis) also comes in red and green varieties. You may be able to find the green version in the wild over here. In other temperate zones, it is possible to find it, but it is more likely to be a garden escapee. Like most wild greens, orache tastes very irony. It can be used anywhere that you would use spinach, raw or cooked. I have some seed saved, so I hope that I can grow some here too next year.

Both seem relatively easy to grow, but they need sun, so I can only grow them in a small part of my shady garden. I don’t mind, I’m looking to use them as part of a large mix in the suitable beds anyway, and I think they’ll be fine. I hope that more people will give them a go, I can recommend them.

This is an entry for the 52 Week Salad Challenge, where there has already been much discussion about red and green lettuces, and their attractiveness to slugs. I am not sure if these plants are particularly attractive to slugs in any case, but they are certainly both very tasty in my opinion!

I made up a Thai chicken and mango salad with my haul from the permaculture garden, and I used fresh coconut, which has just hit the markets around here.  I give the recipe below, but this is really easy to tweak if you don’t have your own permaculture garden to play in, or if you want a veggie version or whatever.

For example, you can substitute Thai (AKA holy basil) or even ordinary basil for the perilla; you can swap out the orache for spinach;  you can use cooked chicken without the marinade; or you can even leave it out if you would like. If you don’t have fresh coconut, use coconut flakes. It’s pretty versatile. The key components are really the dressing and the mango, with some contrasting salad flavours and crunch. Whatever salad leaves you choose will need to be robust enough to stand their own against the other strong flavours.

As always, this recipe serves 2 people, but is easily scalable.

Do you have any leaves you think would be good in this salad?

Recipe: Thai Chicken and Mango Salad

Ingredients

If using uncooked chicken:

4 chicken thighs, boned

3 tbsp oyster sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed to a fine paste

5 cm knob of fresh ginger

½ tbsp light soft brown sugar (lichtbastaard suiker)

pinch chilli powder

If using cooked chicken: 

200 g cooked chicken, cut into bite sized chunks

For the salad:

200 g rice vermicelli noodles

150 g fresh or flaked coconut, cut in thin strips

50 g raw cashews, roughly chopped

1 mango (it can be green or ripe), diced

1 red pepper, diced

½ cucumber. diced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

200 g beansprouts, or other sprouted seeds

10-15 red perilla leaves

Bunch of red orache leaves

Bunch of nasturtium leaves

For the dressing:

3 tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1 tbsp soy sauce

Juice and zest of 1 lime

½ fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely diced, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes

Small amount of brown sugar to taste

Nasturtium flower to garnish (optional)

Method

If you are using uncooked chicken, cut down the thighs so that they are one flat piece. Mix together the marinade ingredients and coat the chicken pieces on all sides.

Roast off in a moderate oven (about 180°C) until the chicken is just cooked. Baste it with the marinade at points throughout the cooking time. Remove from the oven, and set aside

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, drain, and plunge into cold water, to stop them overcooking. Drain again.

Mix up the dressing, and add to the noodles.

Dry fry the coconut, until brown and toasted. Remove from the pan, then toast the nuts in the same way.

Toss together all the salad ingredients, except the leaves, and add to the noodles. Mix well.

If you are using the marinated chicken, cut it up into bite sized dice.

Toss the chicken and the leaves through the salad. Top each one with a nasturtium flower, and serve immediately.

This makes a filling and unusually tasty salad. Perfect as an evening meal.

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Pumpkin, Bacon and Swiss Chard Soup

Bacon Pumkin & Swiss Chard Soup

A soup for this season – warm and velvety

It is that time of year when my cooking is populated with soups. They are great for using up slightly too tough or slightly too old vegetables. And in the Netherlands, it is practically compulsory to have soup and a sandwich for lunch, whatever the weather outside. I am likely to be making quite a few more before the winter is out.

This year, I lost my young pumpkin plants to something, most likely slug-shaped. However, the chard has been going strong for a while now. As I would ordinarily be feasting on my own pumpkins, I have decided that it is not really cheating to add this to the ‘Farmed’ category.

I like my soups quite chunky, and my greens slightly underdone – having been subjected to many an overboiled brassica in my youth. You may prefer to pre cook or even use frozen greens in this soup, and chop or blend them a bit finer. This soup keeps very well in the fridge, and should also freeze well, although I have not tried it.

This soup is easily adaptable for vegetarians, just omit the bacon, and fry the onion in olive oil. I would suggest that you add slightly more smoked paprika at the end instead of the bacon.

Recipe: Pumkin, Bacon & Swiss Chard Soup

Ingredients

450 g pumpkin

A pinch dried chilli flakes

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus stalks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

500 ml stock (veg or chicken)

200 g Swiss chard (spinach would also work well, or maybe a savoy cabbage – it needs to be an iron-rich green vegetable)

200 g bacon, diced

80 ml white wine (optional)

Nutmeg and smoked paprika to taste

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C. Cut the pumpkin in half or quarters, depending on the size and type of your pumpkin. Essentially, it has to fit in a roasting tin. You should leave the skin on. Sprinkle with a little oil (any type except your best olive oil) and season with salt, pepper, and the dried chilli. Rub the thyme sprigs over the pumpkin, and tuck the stalks into the dish as well. It may seem like a pain, but it will save you having to remove the stalks from the soup later. Put the garlic cloves inside or between the pumpkin. No need to remove the papery cover, this will come off much easier when the garlic has been roasted.

Roast the pumpkin in the oven, until the flesh is dry, and it comes away from the skin easily. The time this takes will depend on which type of pumpkin that you use.

Roasting the pumpkin concentrates the flavour a bit. If you don’t have an oven, like many people who I know, you can still use the pumpkin without roasting. just add the thyme to the pot when you sweat the onion, and the pumpkin and the chilli flakes when you add the (now chopped, not roasted) garlic. You will also need to let the pumpkin simmer for longer, until it is tender. Obviously, peel the pumpkin before you add it. No one likes a soup full of skin.

While the pumpkin is cooking, prepare the other vegetables and the bacon. I like the stalks of the chard, but they take much longer to cook than the leaves, so I cut the stalks out, and kept them separate to the leaves. You may decide not to use them, or use spinach. Up to you. Whatever you use needs to be chopped up. How fine you want it is also up to you. I sliced the stalks thinly and the leaves a bit thicker.

Fry the bacon in a deep saucepan. I don’t bother using oil, as the bacon will render its own fat pretty quickly – just keep it moving so that it doesn’t burn.With a slotted spoon, drain the bacon onto kitchen paper, but be sure to retain the fat.

Sweat the onion in some of the bacon fat (you may not need it all). If you are making this a veggie soup, sweat the onion in a little oil. Either way, don’t let it colour.

Add the garlic from the roasting pan, which should slip easily from their skins now. No need to chop them. Add the wine at this point, if you are using it. A glug is fine. Let it cook off and absorb into the onions.

Add the smoked paprika. I usually use about a teaspoon, but this will depend on your taste, and whether or not you are using bacon. Let it cook off briefly while you remove the skin from the pumpkin. This should come off easily with a spoon. Break it into rough lumps, and add to the pan with the onion. Allow it to cook briefly, and take on a paprika coating.

Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

I blended the soup at this stage, but if you prefer a less chunky soup, then you could also blend it after you have added the chard. After the soup was well blended, and smooth, I brought it back to a simmer, and grated in some nutmeg, until it tasted like there was enough in there.

Then I added the stalks of the chard, covered and let it simmer for about 5 minutes before I added the leaves, and allowed them to wilt. If you use spinach, or just the leaves of chard, then this bit will be shorter. If you are using savoy cabbage, I suggest parboiling it a little first before you add it to the soup.

Add the bacon back to the soup, and adjust seasoning to taste.

I served this with a swirl of double cream. You can leave this out if you like, because it is a smooth and unctuous soup without it.

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