This week my feet have barely touched the ground, or the inside of my flat. Last week was the same. With court hearings looming and understandably anxious clients, I have had a string of long days and late nights (and even two nine and a half hour meetings on consecutive days). By the time I have reached the comfort of my front door at the end of the day, breakfast but a distant memory, I have needed dinner within minutes.
The answer was street food. Food that could be put together quickly and easily with the minimum of fuss, but was packed with fresh ingredients and mouthfuls of flavour. My recipes took me from south-east London to the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Marrakech and back to London again. Stuffed pitta breads, a Thai noodle and prawn salad and the final recipe, which is my version of English street food, slow roast tomato pesto and poached egg on toast.
The English do not have a strong culture of street food (unless you count hotdogs and they're American...). We play host to a fine array of street food from all four corners of the globe (as is in evidence at The Rye pub on Peckham Rye Common this week and next, which is showcasing 16 days of fantastic street food courtesy of Eat Street. I popped by on by way home on Wednesday when I was too speechlessly tired to cook and was treated to a delicious dinner of tacos laden with tender, juicy, sweet pork marinated in orange and achiote with tomato and chilli sauce, followed by the most wickedly wonderful chocolate brownie sundae - with nutella ice cream- thanks to Buen Provecho and Choc Star respectively) but we do not have our own signature brand of street food. Below are the recipes I've cooked this week, including my inspiration for English street food - a big hunk of English bread, topped with slow roast tomato pesto and finished off with a poached egg (a sort of posh English breakfast adapted for street eating). All of the recipes can be put together in minutes and will brighten even the hardest of working days.
Carrot, beetroot, radicchio and feta salad with a coriander and cumin dressing
1 beetroot, cooked
Prawn and glass noodle salad
1 bundle glass noodles
Zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
A dribble of fish sauce
Zest and juice the limes. Marinate the prawns in the zest and a tablespoon of juice (just while you are preparing the salad).
To make the dressing, mix 2 tablespons of lime juice with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the sugar, garlic, chilli and a dribble of fish sauce. Adjust the lime juice and olive oil to taste.
Slice the carrot into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Chop the cucumber into thin strips. Finely chop the mint and coriander.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions. Fry the prawns for a couple of minutes until pink.
Arrange the spinach, carrot, noodles and cucumber in a bowl. Pour over the dressing. Top with the cooked prawns, mint and coriander.
Slow roast tomato pesto and poached egg on toast
This recipe uses slow roasted tomatoes, which are best cooked in the oven on a very low heat for several hours. This is obviously not practical after a long day so cook the tomatoes the weekend before. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
1 garlic clove
Bread for toast
Preheat the oven to 90 degrees C. Half the cherry tomatoes and place, cut side up, on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Sprinkle over some dried oregano, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 hours until the tomatoes have dried and shrunk and have an intense and sweet tomatoey flavour. Leave to cool and store in the fridge until needed.
To make the pesto blitz the tomatoes with a small handful of grated parmesan, 1 crushed clove of garlic and a few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir in some finely chopped basil.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a splash of white wine vinegar. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting so the water is calm. Break an egg into a ladle and then holding the ladle just above the surface of the water tip the egg very gently into the water. Repeat with the second egg. Leave the eggs until the white is set.
Toast the bread. Top with the pesto and a poached egg. Season. Smile. Sleep.
Zzz zzz zzz
Sunday, 8 May 2011
And the early signs are looking good (subject to getting rain): I have a steady supply of rocket, lettuce, mizuna, spinach and chard, sown inside in window boxes at the beginning of the year and planted out as soon as the seedlings were big enough to handle the still cold nights; my basil and parsley are thriving in the greenhouse and are a very welcome summery addition to the hardier herbs in the garden (oregano, thyme, sage, chives, marjoram and rosemary) and to my cooking; the peas are looking promising and are already in flower; the french beans germinated indoors and are now outside enjoying steady growth (so long as they are protected from the nightly ravages of the marauding snails from my neighbour's garden who march across our border under cover of darkness); the rhubarb continues to keep me in compote and cake; the strawberries are pert and showy wth a tantalising display of flowers and green fruit; and the beetroot, tomatoes and chicory all seem to be en route to summer glory.
The other unparalled joy of this time of year, for gardeners lucky enough to have the space for a bed and for the rest of us who are lucky enough to get our hands of some of their tender, green spears, is the arrival of British asparagus. With only a few short weeks to indulge in its divine goodness (the season only lasts from May to mid-June), I have been taking every opportunity I can to cook with it. Equally good steamed, boiled, grilled, fried or roasted, below are a couple of the recipes I have been cooking, using what's in the garden to complement this wonderfully British vegetable (there are lots more fantastic recipes ideas at http://www.british-asparagus.co.uk/).
Soft boiled egg with asparagus soldiers
(makes a cheeky starter or a wonderfully easy week night supper)
Place the eggs in egg cups. Take off the tops and season the yolk. Dunk your asparagus spears!
Use buttered (sourdough) toast to mop up any leftover eggy, asparagus mess.
Grilled asparagus with olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan shavings
Mix 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil.
Griddle or fry the asparagus spears until tender. Whilst warm pour over the dressing and season with salt and pepper. Top with parmesan shavings.
Trim the woody ends of the aspargus and discard. Remove the tips (about 5cm) and put to one side. Chop the remaining section of the spears into 1cm pieces. Boil or steam until just tender. Drain and refresh in cold water (to stop the cooking process).
Cook the broad beans in boiling water. Drain and refresh under cold water. Pod the beans (if you can't be bothered or have not got time, it will taste equally good with unpodded beans).
Cook the couscous according to the instructions.
In a bowl, mix the couscous, rocket, cooked asparagus, broad beans mint and parsley and pour over the dressing.
Griddle or fry the asparagus tips in olive oil until just tender and serve on top of the couscous.
|3 of the 8 pots of nuptial sweet peas|