At the Table
Accompaniments are the theme for today, and how much they add to a table. What is also in my mind is eating light, crunchy food. Asian flavours are at the forefront.
Making sauces, sambals or side dishes with intense flavour hits is something I really enjoy doing and I think it adds a special dimension to a table.
I really focus on it when I am planning a meal. I think about what could be an extra flavour hit that will add intensity to the menu.
I particularly love Indian food for this reason. There are so many side dishes such as relishes and chutneys - mostly made fresh for the particular meal rather than chutneys that you preserve and store. Other Asian cuisines also have this focus on accompaniments.
I happened to pick up my copy of Rick Steins A Far Eastern Odyssey the other day and flicked through the sections of the book with recipes from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. His wonderful recipes inspired me to do some experimentation in the kitchen and to think about making food that I haven't done in a while.
That is the joy of recipe books, to inspire you to try something new or something you haven't made for ages. They jog your culinary repertoire a little.
After the long winter months it is also great to make food that is lighter and cooked quickly with plenty of crunch. There are many great recipes from the Southeast Asian countries using sprouts, cucumber, lettuces and bitter greens with zesty limey dressings usually with the extra punch of chilli or fish sauce or shrimp paste.
I am featuring three different accompaniments in this story. The first is Balinese peanut sauce that requires a visit to the Bin Inn or another Asian food supplier to buy some supplies if you don't have them on hand.
The first is shrimp paste made from salted and fermented prawns. It has a pungent taste that is essential in food from that part of the world. You also need kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce, sweetened with palm sugar, used in Indonesian food.
Chillies are also essential and Asian chillies - bird's eye chillies and Kashmiri chillies from India are used in the peanut sauce. Dried Kashmiri chillies have great flavour and are moderately hot and provide a great colour. You soak them and then chop or whiz into a paste.
The second accompaniment is a fresh relish made with coriander, parsley and mint, lots of lime juice and chilli. The third is a coconut, kaffir lime, garlic, and chilli sauce flavoured with fish sauce.
Fish sauce is another key ingredient for food from Southeast Asia; known as nam pla in Thailand, kecap ikan in Indonesia, tuk trey in Cambodia and nuoc mam in Vietnam. It is derived from salted and fermented anchovies and can replace salt in any dish. If you love anchovies you will also love fish sauce.
The other thing about food from this part of the world is fried shallots. You can find them in packages in Asian food stores but I think you should always make them fresh yourself. You finely slice shallots, toss them in flour and then fry in about 2 centimetres of vegetable oil until they are golden. They are delicious and can be sprinkled on almost any dish at all.
ONION, CARROT AND BLACK MUSTARD SEED FRITTERS WITH FRESH HERB RELISH
1 large onion finely sliced
1 large carrot grated
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 Tbsp fresh coriander
tsp of chilli flakes
1 tsp salt
1 egg beaten
cup chick pea flour
Soak the onion and carrot in boiling water for about 15 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towels. Place in a bowl with the crushed garlic, spices and herbs. Mix in an egg and the flour. Fry in vegetable oil in tablespoonfuls until golden on both sides.
Serve with the fresh herb relish
Fresh Herb Relish
cup of fresh coriander
cup of fresh parsley-finely chopped
cup of fresh mint
1 fresh green chilli
1 clove of garlic
cup of yoghurt
Juice of 2 limes
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
CRAB CAKES WITH COCONUT KAFFIR LIME SAUCE
500g of crab meat - you can use good quality canned crab
1 red or green pepper
1 small red chilli
Lime zest from 1 lime
1 egg beaten
cup of coconut freshly grated or dried
1 Tbsp of chickpea flour
A handful of chopped coriander or Italian parsley
Combine the crab meat, diced peppers, lime zest, coconut, egg, flour and herbs, season with salt and shape into cakes. Chill for half an hour to help them keep their shape. Fry in a little hot oil until they are golden brown.
Coconut and Kaffir Lime Sauce
200ml of good quality coconut milk
2 Tbsp kecap manis
1 kaffir lime leaf finely chopped
Lime juice from 1 lime
2 tsp of fish sauce
Fresh coriander or parsley
Combine all the ingredients and gently simmer until well combined.
GADO-GADO WITH PEANUT SAUCE
This is the version I made - there are multiple choices in what you can include - you can add cabbage cauliflower, carrots . . .
1 large potato - cooked and cubed
200g of green beans, cooked lightly - they should still be crunchy
1 cup of shredded spinach leaves
cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced
1 cup of bean sprouts
2 hard boiled eggs
cup of crisp fried shallots
1 red chilli finely sliced
Juice of a lime
2 Tbsp of peanut oil
1 tsp of fish sauce
Mix the lime, peanut oil and fish sauce together in a big bowl. Add the warm potatoes, spinach, cucumber, chilli, beans, sprouts and toss. Arrange the eggs cut into quarters and top with the shallots. Drizzle the peanut sauce over the top.
2 dried Kashmiri chillies soaked in hot water for 30 minutes then drained and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 shallots finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 bird's eye chilli finely chopped
2 small tomatoes, skinned and chopped
tsp shrimp paste
1 Tbsp palm sugar
1 cups of coconut milk
150g of roasted peanuts
2 tsp kecap manis
2 Tbsp lime juice
Saute the shallots and garlic in a little vegetable oil.
Add the chillies, tomato, shrimp paste and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk and sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, roast the peanuts and cool. Put in a food processor and grind until slightly chunky. Add the peanuts to the other ingredients, add the kecap manis and lime juice. Allow to cool.
You may need to add water to it before serving. It should be runny when you add to the salad. You can store this for several days in the fridge.