Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wild Nettle Pakora

I've grown to respect the nettle recently. Touch one and it has the power to numb a finger or two for several hours. But that isn't the reason for new-found respect; it is simply because I like eating them.

Nettles are packed full of iron and minerals and treat carefully, they are a welcome replacement for spinach in a curry or to be made into a soup.

My favourite way with nettles is to make Indian pakoras, all spicy, crispy, mysterious and green. They are a doddle to make and amazing to eat, even my 6 year old loves them. So next time you are tutting at the nettles in your garden, just don the gloves and pick off all of the tops of the nettles and use them in your recipes. Delicious.

Wild Nettle Pakora
Makes lots

1 large colander full of young nettle leaves
300g chickpea flour (I sometimes used rice flour, it's a little more dense)
1 tsp garam masala
Half tsp ground tumeric
Half tsp ground chilli powder
Salt and pepper
Vegetable or sunflower oil

1 - With gloves on, carefully pick through the nettles discarding any tough or bruised leaves. Wash thoroughly in a sink full of water.
2 - Pick the leaves up and put them straight into a deep pan. Turn up the heat and cook until wilted. Allow to cool, squeeze out excess water then roughly chop.
3 - In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, spices and seasoning. Add the wilted chopped nettles. Stir in enough water to make a thick batter.
4 - Heat up the oil in a deep pan. Test by dropping in a little batter. Add teaspoons of the batter mixture and cook in batches until golden and crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
5 - Serve either as a snack with mango chutney or as an accompaniment to a curry.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Hot and Sour Sirloin Steak, Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Hot, sour and sweet; the Thai nation seem to marry these three amazing tastes to perfection and it is such incredible food. Thai food appears simple and complex at the same time, combining a myriad of flavours that play tricks with your taste buds. I've been cooking from David Thompson's comprehensive Thai Food book for some years now, and although Thai food isn't on our menu half as much as I would like it to be, it is always a real treat when it is.

This recipe ticks all of the Thai food boxes that make their food so appealing to me; fresh and sour from the grapefruit, salty from the Nam Pla, hot from the chilli and English Mustard. Thai/English fusion food - maybe I've started something?

Hot and Sour Sirloin Steak, Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad
Feeds 2

2 inch thick quality aged sirloin steaks
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 red birds eye chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp English mustard
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

For the salad

1 pink grapefruit, skinned and segmented
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
A handful of fresh coriander leaves
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
2 banana shallots, peeled, halved and sliced thinly

For the dressing
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp Nam Pla, fish sauce
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp Mirin rice wine

1 - Mix together the garlic, chilli, mustard and a little salt and pepper. Rub onto the steaks.
2 - Heat a thick frying pan and add a little vegetable oil. Ensure it is searing hot. Add the steaks and cook to your liking; rare, 3 minutes each side; medium, 5 minutes each side; well done, 7 minutes each side. Leave to rest for 5 minutes and assemble the salad.
3 - Make the dressing by whisking the ingredients together in a bowl.
4 - Toss the salad ingredients together a dress with a little of the dressing.
5 - Pile onto plates. Slice your steaks into strips and arrange on top of the salad. Finally drizzle over some of the dressing and serve with more lime wedges.