Brown Rice Noodles With Ginger Scallion Broth

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I love reading about food trends, and if there’s one that is definitely going to be big in 2015, it’s broth. Everyone from Joy The Baker to The New York Times to The Guardian have called it, and broth is becoming a trendy alternative pick-me-up to coffee.

I began to read voraciously about broth after reading about Hemsley +Hemsley in Goop and The Coveteur. I’ve been following the Hemsley sisters’ work obsessively online for the past month or so, and since broth forms the basis of many of their recipes, I figured I’d give it a try.

I’ll admit, I’m the queen of the stock cube. Whether it’s soup or pasta sauce, I reach for stock cubes and throw them in- they are convenient and give a quick taste-boost. It’s not that I haven’t made my own stock before- I have, but stock cubes are just more convenient. And who’s going to save fish, chicken and mutton bones anyway?

When I buy fish, I almost always get it filleted so that I can use it for curries, pan-frying or preparing en papillote. Chicken is either boneless, drumsticks or a curry-cut; I rarely roast one whole. Boneless strips are stir-fried. Drumsticks are turned into a Kerala-style chicken fry; and a curry-cut becomes an easy one-pot chicken curry to go with rice or rotis. So chicken bones are just discarded. Mutton too, is made into a curry and we end up chucking the bones after we finish our meal.

Anyhow. After reading so much about home-made stock or broth, I had to give it a try. I made a bean-and-kale soup the other day, and instead of using a stock cube, I made my own stock with some aromats (onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, garlic, ginger,) and a handful of bony mutton pieces. Not bones, but small bony pieces. I put everything into a ceramic dutch oven, poured some cold water over it and allowed it to simmer for 2 hours. I then strained the liquid and went on preparing the rest of the soup, adding tomato puree, beans, vegetables, herbs and kale.

A stock cube is definitely easier, and the flavour is stronger- and saltier. The homemade stock, however, had a much more well-rounded flavour, though subtler.

For broth as a meal, I thought I’d take small steps, and zeroed in on a simple recipe from It’s All Good. Ginger-scallion broth with soba noodles.

I replaced the soba noodles with some quick-cooking brown rice noodles, and I prepared it without the seaweed. Still really, really good. The slow simmer really brings out the flavour and kick of the ginger, and it makes for a light, soothing and flavourful meal-in-a-bowl. I topped the noodle broth with stir fried vegetables, but chicken, seafood, meat or tofu would work just as well.

BROWN RICE NOODLES WITH GINGER SCALLION BROTH (Adapted from It’s All Good)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, crushed
  • 8-10 green peppercorns (optional)
  • 8 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 2 more scallions, sliced thinly, to serve
  • A handful of mint and coriander leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 250 grams brown rice vermicelli (You could also use regular white vermicelli. Use Thai vermicelli, not the semia that is used for kheer and sweets- that gets too sticky.)

METHOD

  • Combine the ginger, scallions and soy sauce with 3 cups of cold water and bring to a boil. Once the liquid boils, lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add some mint leaves and cilantro, cover with a lid and allow the broth to rest for 5-7 minutes. Strain the liquid and set aside, covered.
  • Meanwhile, cook the brown rice vermicelli according to package instructions, drain and set aside. Divide the noodles evenly between 4 bowls, ladle the broth over it, and top with the thinly sliced scallions.  Add some stir-fried veggies/chicken/meat/tofu to make it a full meal!

Macaroni With Leeks

macaroni with leeks

I first heard of leeks in Mireille Guiliano’s book French Women Don’t Get Fat. The recipe for Magical Leek Soup is one of the first recipes in the book, and I actually had to Google leeks to understand what exactly they were. They sounded leafy to me, but I quickly learned they belonged to the onion-garlic family.

Since moving to Pune, leeks have been pretty regular in our kitchen. The greenmarket has lovely leeks, and they’re reasonably priced as well. While leek and potato soup is a classic, I like eating the leeks whole or sliced.

I’m one of those cooks who enjoys the “prep,” part of cooking. I like getting my mise-en-place on, washing and prepping my vegetables and laying out my spices and condiments beforehand. But of course, any dish which requires a little less prep is always welcome. Leeks are great because they don’t require too much prep- they may appear imposing with their green heads, but they are a pretty uncomplicated vegetable to work with.

Leeks don’t beg to be peeled. They don’t need “activation,” or overnight soaking. They don’t need a slow-cooker or a big oven. They just need to have the green tops cut off, and rinsed well to get any grit out. Yes, this part takes a little patience. There usually is a fair amount of dirt and sandy grit nestled between the leaves, but once that is rinsed off and the leeks are sliced or chopped, they submit willingly to olive oil, butter and some salt and pepper- and that’s all they really need.

I looked at two recipes with leeks and pasta- Leeks Fettuccine from Guiliano’s French Women For All Seasons, and the other, Nigel Slater’s Pappardelle with Leeks. I sliced the leeks Guiliano-style but cooked them Slater-style, with butter. (Slater claims that “Leeks like butter rather than oil, and a low heat in which to cook,” so I did just that.) Both recipes are pretty bare-boned simple. If you have young leeks you don’t need to do much more to amp up the flavour except cook them with butter. Add cooked pasta, some good cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and herbs like thyme, tarragon or basil and your meal is ready. (I skipped the herbs and added some rehydrated sundried tomatoes.)

Agreed, a ribbon-y pasta looks much nicer with leeks- but I used macaroni because my son loves it.

MACARONI WITH LEEKS AND SUNDRIED TOMATOES

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced into half-moons
  • 50 g butter (this comes to half a bar of Amul butter, the small 100 g pack- it seems like a lot but you don’t need much else to dress the pasta!)
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked macaroni
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in water and drained.
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook till al dente. Drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in another large pot over low heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper and let them cook slowly in the butter until soft and tender.
  • Once the leeks are cooked, add in the cooked pasta, the sundried tomatoes, a little bit of the pasta water and parmesan. Mix well, pull off the heat and serve. Add more parmesan and butter by all means, if you wish 😀

Happy 2015! | Rachel Khoo’s Leeks With Poached Eggs

Leeks with poached eggs

Happy new year folks! I know the blogosphere is abuzz with resolutions, words-for-the-year, setting intentions and going through detoxes. Well, I haven’t really given any of the above much thought- I’m not much of a resolution setter or keeper, but I’ve decided to devote more time in the months ahead to reading, writing and journaling, and showcasing more everyday meals on the blog. (I still love my cakes & cookies, brownies & bars, pies & tarts; but so much of what I do cook on a day to day basis doesn’t end up here.)

I started a bit of a tradition last year of getting myself one or two nice cookbooks/food memoirs around the holidays. Online sellers have some amazing sales, and I scroll through my wishlist and the food & drink sections to see what’s on sale and quickly add to cart. To some, spending so much on cookbooks doesn’t make sense, especially since millions of recipes are available online, at little to no cost. But to a food lover and kitchen gnome like me, there’s always space on the bookshelf for one more glossy tome 🙂

Which brings me to my question: Are you fans of Rachel Khoo? I first heard of her on Purple Foodie, where she referenced Khoo’s book. I saw the BBC series, and really enjoyed her simplified spin on French classics. I never tried her recipes despite enjoying the show, however. I’m more of an Italian food fan myself, and I had some preconceived notions about French food being too complicated, heavy and rich. (Which is exactly what Khoo dispels in the book.)

But, after going through Thanh’s blog and her successes with the book, I had to buy it. Plus, I really wanted to learn more about French cooking and figured Little Paris Kitchen would be a good place to start. So LPK and Julia Child’s My Life In France were my food book gifts to myself for 2014.

The first recipe I tried was a buckwheat galette, topped with some cheese and cherry tomatoes. It calls for nothing more than salt, buckwheat flour and water, and I much prefer this savoury version to the vegan buckwheat pancake recipe from It’s All Good.  It’s easy and can be customized with sweet and savoury toppings.

The second recipe I turned to was the leeks in vinaigrette with a poached egg and ham. I love the concept of topping dishes with an egg, whether it’s a bowl of noodles and broth, bibimbap, or just some lemon-parmesan pasta.

Now you know me- I rarely follow recipes down to the wire (unless I am baking,) and will substitute or go without an ingredient if necessary- so I did just that with these leeks. I didn’t have ham, so I added sundried tomatoes for a salty kick. I served the leeks with some simple lemon-pepper-parmesan pasta.

LEEKS IN VINAIGRETTE WITH POACHED EGGS AND SUNDRIED TOMATOES (Adapted from The Little Paris Kitchen.)

INGREDIENTS

For The Leeks

  • 8 young leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg per person
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For The Vinaigrette

  • 6 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • A pinch of sugar + salt to taste

METHOD

  • Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Soak the sundried tomatoes in warm water for 30 minutes until soft and pliable. (If you are using sundried tomatoes that are packed in olive oil, you can scatter over the leeks as they are, once plated.)
  • Trim the roots of the leeks and slice lengthways. Soak in cold water for 10 mins, then wash thoroughly under running cold water to get rid of any dirt and grit that may be stuck between the leaves.
  • Heat a griddle pan until smoking. Brush the cut sides of the leeks with olive oil, place them cut-side-down on the griddle pan until grill marks appear, about 4-5 mins.
  • Brush the tops of the leeks with olive oil, flip and cook on the other side for 4-5 mins.
  • Poach your eggs in the meantime. I am a terrible poacher of eggs, so I just use a Nordic Ware microwave egg poacher. For the authentic way to poach eggs, follow Amanda Hesser’s instructions on Food52.
  • Once the eggs and leeks are ready, plate up. Place two leek halves on a plate, drizzle with the vinaigrette, place an egg on top and scatter some sundried tomato pieces over the top. I finished with an extra swirl of olive oil, along with some salt and cracked pepper.