I love, love, love Pad Thai. It’s my fave dish at my local take away. One of those dishes that, no matter how hard you try to make yourself try something new, you end up ordering anyway because it’s just SO good. So, the prospect of learning how to cook this dish delighted me, to say the least.
Soaking the noodles.
The first step is to soak the rice noodles. That takes 10 minutes in boiling water so if you’re hungry it’s good to get onto it as soon as you walk through door after work.
peanuts and egg.
Egg and peanuts. This is an easy dish on the whole but there are lots of steps in its construction. I used my rolling pin to crush the peanuts, placing the bag on top of a folded tea towel to pad the bench.
Making the omelette.
A super thin omelette takes a super-hot, non stick pan and patience. Wait until you start to see the edges of the omelette lift off the pan before using a non-stick slice to lift and flip it.
Adding the liquid.
After frying off the chicken and onions you add the liquid to the pan. It seems like such a lot but as soon as you add the noodles you understand why. Some of the liquid evaporates, some is absorbed into the noodles, and before you know it you have Pad Thai of a perfect consistency.
While preparing the various elements of this dish is time consuming, assembling it couldn’t be quicker. Place the noodle/chicken combo into the bowl, top with sliced omelette, bean shoots and crushed peanuts and add a squeeze of lemon (very important if you’re going to achieve that traditional sweet/sour Pad Thai flavour).
My local takeaway has some competition
Another great fish recipe from the Convenient Kitchen. If I’ve learned nothing else on this adventure (and trust me I’ve learned plenty) it’s a whole bunch of interesting and original ways to cook fish. Cheers to that.
Crumbing the barramundi.
When you mix the polenta and lemon zest it’s hard to believe that it will stick to the barramundi fillets but that’s the magic of egg. The polenta/lemon combo creates a fantastic crust that sticks to every part of the fish. It’s going to fry up a treat.
The French beans in this week’s bag were fantastically fresh – you know a bean is fresh when you snap it and it makes that satisfying cracking sound.
Instead of boiling the potato I steamed it. I prefer steaming where possible because it’s supposed to retain the nutrients in the food more effectively, and because it seems easier to clean up a steamer than a saucepan filled with potato flotsam and jetsam!
As expected, the barramundi retained its gorgeous crust – nothing lost in the pan – and turned the most appetising golden shade.
Sauteing the beans and cherry tomatoes.
Cooked cherry tomatoes are one of the finer things in life. The frying brings out their sweetness but there’s still that mouthwatering sour kick when they burst open and the seeds come out. Have to say that although it would never occur to me to saute green beans, I loved them as well and they were a fab combo with the tomatoes.
Polenta crusted barramundi with mash and sauteed vegetables.
This was a great spring dish. I saved the left-over crumbs in the fridge and had the second piece of barramundi the following day with salad. Probably not a dish you could take to work with you but perfect for a weekend lunch at home.
A delicious recipe but be prepared, if you don’t choose to pre-cook the potatoes in the microwave this one will actually take 45 minutes rather than the 30 minutes stated on the recipe sheet.
Icing the shaved fennel.
The first step is to soak the fennel shavings in iced water and lemon juice. This crisps the fennel up beautifully for another fabulously crunch Convenient Kitchen salad.
Segmenting the mandarins is a fiddly job but well worth doing properly. First, peel the mandarines. Next use a very sharp knife to remove all the white pith on the surface of the skin. Lastly slice each segment from the whole, cutting as close to the edge of each membrane as possible. Do this task over a bowl because a lot of juice comes out of the segments during the preparation. I also squeezed the remaining mandarine ‘carcasses’ so the juice could go into the dressing.
Whisking the oil and cider vinegar.
The dressing is a simple emulsion of olive oil and cider vinegar. Because cider vinegar isn’t very acid the mandarin juice ended up making it quite sweet. In future it would probably benefit from a drop of lemon juice as well to give the dressing a bit of bite.
Trio of salad ingredients.
I liked the colour of the salad ingredients together, hence the photo!
Peppering the steak.
One of my favourite kitchen ‘gadgets’ is a decent pepper grinder. Mine came from Ikea and it rocks. There’s nothing more frustrating than a pepper grinder that doesn’t grind properly. If I could only afford to buy five decent kitchen implements, a good pepper grinder would be one of them.
Hard to bring out the colour off this salad authentically with my camera but trust me, once assembled it’s a knock out. I cooked the steak on the barbeque instead of in a pan and this time I was super careful not to overcook. The result was a beautifully medium rare piece of steak.
Peppered steak with new season potatoes & mandarin & fennel salad.
So the finished product: peppered steak with new season jacket potato and fennel and mandarine salad. Give yourself time to prepare this one – it’s well worth the wait.
A slight variation on a previous TCK recipe, I was a fan of their honey, tamari wings the first time around so I wasn’t about to object to a second crack at them. With this version of the recipe you heat the coating mixture gently in a small pan to combine the ingredients before pouring it over your wings. The smell of the honey and soy warming through got the taste buds going even before the chicken was in the oven!
Coating the wings.
I’ve been meaning to try quinoa (apparently pronounced keen-whaaa) for a while and stumbled over it in the supermarket this afternoon. Because I like to avoid rice where possible and this whole grain is low GI and high in protein, I decided to try it as an alternative to the basmati rice in the recipe. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, cooking rice in a pan isn’t my speciality and after getting this on the simmer I actually forgot about it until the pan had more or less boiled dry (but fortunately not burned). There was a horrible moment when I thought I’d over cooked the quinoa into a mushy porridge but a quick taste test revealed some bite remained in the grains. It was good.
I’d love some tips on how to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan (and getting more of it to stick to the chicken). I stuck faithfully to the recipe and the proscribed oven temperature and still most of it ended up burned to the bottom of the pan. There wasn’t much left to drizzle over the finished dish. Is my fan-forced oven too powerful? Is there some other trick I’m missing. Any suggestions gratefully received.
Wings coming along nicely.
Ironically, it wasn’t the quinoa I overcooked but the bok choy. I steamed it until it melted in the mouth. That sounds good but it’s actually better with a bit of bite to it I think. Oh well, it’s a leafy green vegetable. Down the hatch!
Steamed bok choy.
So here’s the finished product, honey, soy and sesame chicken wings with quinoa and bok choy. In the end the wings actually had great colour and I loved the way the little bit of sauce that remained soaked into the quinoa. I’ll definitely be wheeling that out as an alternative to rice again in the near future. I wonder if it freezes…
Honey, soy and sesame chicken wings with basmati rice & bok choy.
One of the things I love most about The Convenient Kitchen recipes is all the clever dressings nutritionist Indra comes up with. They make for great variety in meals and I frequently find myself ‘exporting’ the dressings when I’m cooking my own recipes on non-TCK days.
Roasting the veg for the warm salad.
Warm salads are fantastic for Spring when it’s not quite hot enough to subsist on raw vegetables alone. I absolutely love roasted tomatoes because they pop when you toss the salad and combine with whatever dressing you are using. Sweet potato is another salad favourite.
Mixing up the yoghurt dressing.
And here’s the famous dressing from this recipe. I had a moment of horror when I realised that I’d missed plain yoghurt off my shopping list. There was no way this dish was going to taste as good mixed with the low fat strawberry variety in my fridge. Somehow I just couldnt’ see the garlic the recipe called for working. This is where my tzatziki obsession came into play. I used the half tub I found in my fridge as the base for my dressing and didn’t even have to crush a clove of garlic to go into it. There was a typo in this recipe – the ingredients listed flat leaf parsley but the method instructed us to combine the coriander with the yoghurt. A quick scan of the remainder of the recipes on this week’s agenda revealed that the parsley was the go.
Vegetables starting to soften.
Once the vegetables were roasting in the oven it really was just a question of checking them occasionally and giving the pan a bit of a shake. The tomatoes go in slightly after the root vegetables so they don’t over cook and shrivel.
lightly pan frying the snapper.
There was a really generous amount of fish in the bag. More than enough for two people, possibly three because it is surprisingly filling. It took about three minutes in total to pan fry the snapper fillets, skin side down first, then flesh side down until it was cooked through.
Grilled baby snapper with roasted vegetable and chickpea salad.
Assembly of this salad is quick. Washed spinach leaves, roasted veggies tossed through, fish on top and dressing dotted around on top of that. A colourful and delicious Spring salad in the time it takes to pan roast a few veg.
This one takes time to cook, but the preparation couldn’t be more simple. It’s the ultimate set and forget dish.
Boiling the nitrates out of the corned beef
The first step was to boil the nitrates out of the meat. I’ve done this before without really questioning what Nitrates are, and why they need to be removed from the meat. Here’s what I found out: Nitrates are a preservative and also help to give the beef its ‘hammy’ flavour. They’re added to the meat when it is cured which prevents the meat from developing bacteria (and ultimately botulism) and also gives the meat its pink colour. The reason you effectively rinse the meat and discard the water before you actually begin the cooking process is because high levels of nitrates can be bad for you and some studies even found suggested links to cancer. That said, there are actually higher levels of nitrates in veggies like celery and spinach, so the ‘hot bath’ you give the corned beef is more of a precaution than an essential. End of pseudo-science lesson.
Fresh vegetables, chopped and ready for steaming.
As ever, the veggies in this week’s bag were bursting with freshness. A few passes with a sharp knife and they were ready to go into the steamer.
Simmering the corned beef with the onions and herbs.
Nitrates duly removed from my corned beef it was back into the pot. This is the time consuming part of the process because you have to add cold water and allow the pot to boil, rather than starting with boiling water. The actual cooking time of this dish is probably a little longer than the 45 minutes allocated on the recipe but the beauty of it is that you could cook it the night before if you wanted to. Corned beef is equally fab cold. Along with the beef in the pot, an onion and a bay leaf for flavour.
Corned beef and lovely mushy onion.
Yum! I love onion when it’s been cooked like this. I’m not sure the recipe intends that you eat it but I love to add it to the mashed potato. it’s so wonderfully yummy and it seems a shame not to enjoy it.
Corned beef with steamed vegetables and mash.
So there it is, corned beef with steamed vegetables and mash. A really simple dish to prepare, just make sure you give yourself enough time to cook the meat. As they say, ‘a watched pot never boils’ and this particular pot needs to boil not once, but twice.
This is one of The Convenient Kitchen’s 30-minute recipes so perfect after a long day at work or, in my case, for a good lunch before a long evening of work where dinner is likely to comprise a couple of curled up canapes and (too much) champagne.
As usual, I supplemented white rice for brown. Not traditional, I know, but it seems to give me a longer-lasting energy boost (and I think it’s much tastier). As with pasta, if you freeze any extra rice you have once it’s cooked it is quick and easy to prepare the next time you need it in a dish. Just zap it in the microwave to defrost.
Prepped onions, chili and garlic.
I have to confess I didn’t read ahead in the recipe when I prepared the spring onions so didn’t separate white from green. I roughly separated them once they were chopped but I was by no means militant about it. It didn’t seem to effect the dish significantly however. I like a little zing in my Nasi Goreng so I left the seeds in the chilies when I chopped them. If you prefer a less spicy dish de-seed the chilies before slicing them finely.
Stir frying chicken with aromatics.
Once the various elements of this dish are prepared it’s very simple to assemble. Brown the chicken and remove it from the pan. Then stir fry the spring onions, garlic and chili until aromatic.
Stir frying all the Nasi Goreng ingredients for a couple of minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan with the cooked rice and the Katcup Manis and stir fry to mix everything. Then transfer the Nasi Goreng to a serving dish and fry off an egg in the wok.
Wok fried egg - I like mine sunny side up.
Top the Nasi Goreng with the egg, shredded lettuce and matchsticks of Lebanese cucumber and serve. A very tasty lunch that set me up for the evening ahead.
Easy Indonesian Nasi Goreng.