Laap Neua (Laotian beef salad) ລາບ ຊີ້ນງົວຊີ້ນຄວາຍ

Or larb, or larp, or laab. Bless the confusion of translating from a foreign alphabet to the western. Etymology aside, this is one of my favourite meals in the world. This version came close to the delicious flavour when I’ve had it cooked for me, and has the advantage of taking about 20 minutes, with very little prep.

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It’s like a jungle made of herbs and meat

The mix of herbs is delicious, and makes up a huge part of the dish. I have made this with strips of steak. Traditionally it would be minced beef (or pork, chicken, white fish or any other deceased animal) but I like the steak strips as a little westernisation of the meal.

If you have an extra 10 minutes, dry fry a small handful of rice before you start, grind it up in a pestle and mortar, and add this to the pan too for extra authenticity. It’s called Khao Kua and is a big thing in Southeast Asian cuisine.

Ingredients

Ingredients are per person

  • Frying Steak
  • Spring onions
  • Bird eye or other small powerful chilli
  • Mint- A large bundle torn into big chunky pieces, insofar as leaves can be chunky
  • Thai/holy basil- A big handful again, roughly chopped. You can get it in Waitrose or Asian food shops. It’s sweeter than normal basil.
  • Coriander- a handful, roughly chopped
  • Lime- juice and grated zest of half
  •  Nam Pla (fish sauce) 1 tsp
  • Chilli sauce- 1tsp and use sweet chilli if you like
  • 4 or 5 large whole lettuce leaves, to serve.

Method

Chop the spring onion and chilli finely and cut the beef into thin strips. Chop the herbs as well to save panic later.

Continue reading Laap Neua (Laotian beef salad) ລາບ ຊີ້ນງົວຊີ້ນຄວາຍ

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The Low End Cronut Theory

Okay, so… if you’re not a food blog trawling geek like myself, you may not know of this beautiful creature, which was one of Time Magazine’s inventions of 2013. Invented by Dominique Ansel in New York, it is a hybrid of the all-American doughnut, and the tres French croissant, hence the portmanteau name. image I had been hunting for one for the last couple of months. After seeing the queues in New York, others have tried to get in on the hype this snack has been gathering. Indeed, several such places have been served with cease and desist orders, for using the name cronut, at times to hilarious effect! In the UK, at least until this week, it had only been spotted in London’s pricier, or more hipster areas. On Saturday, I walked from London Fields down to Charing Cross in search of this elusive prize, smartphone in hand, mapping a course through markets lined with organic butchers and chi-chi cake stalls, narrow streets full of men in tights sporting ridiculous facial hair, and even, at one point, a Costa coffee shop. For all this, my journey came to naught, and dejected, I made my way from the grimy capital, a cronut shaped hole in my belly and soul.

The following Tuesday, I had forgotten to partake of breakfast before leaving the house, and so decided that a £2 sausage and bacon sandwich was the way to go if I was to make it to lunchtime. I wandered into Greggs, and there, between the steak slices (love them) and the Yum-Yums (can’t see the point myself) was the Greggsnut, their legally compliant version of the Cronut. As they say, it’s only when you stop looking, you find what was in front of you all along! At the moment, they are only getting 4 a day, but given that they are normally sold out before 8:30am, I can’t see this being a continuing state of affairs. image And so, I sat down with my coffee, and unpackaged the thing. Sloppy icing on the top made it look charming and less mass produced. I took a bite. It is sugary, like a doughnut, but with the buttery flakiness of a croissant. It was ever so slightly burnt, whether by design or accident, and this added a lovely contrasting flavour with the sugared icing and the toffee sauce inside. As you take more bites, it may become more than a little rich for 8:15am of a weekday, but this is a treat, and richness is preferable to blandness when you consume 500 calories in 3 minutes! Overall, it deserves the hype surrounding it, and on first impression, it may be the improvement both the doughnut and the croissant needed, and we never realised! image If this is how good it tastes when it comes from Greggs, which while brilliant, is not known for using expensive ingredients (indeed, that’s exactly why Greegs is great), I can only dream of what Dominique Anselm’s original, baked over the course of three days with all manner of specialised equipment must be like. Solving my original aim has only left me wanting more!

Now That’s What I Call Music 7

Now 7

This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- 11th August 1986

Music History

Hip-hop is taking off and gets it’s first real section on this series. First entries for the Pet Shop Boys and The Housemartins suggests that people are starting to like wry, arch pop songs. Wham splitting up suggests that soon, Faith will be released, which is good for all Mankind. And sadly, Phil Lynott passes away.

Me History

I am 2 1/2 years old. I don’t actually remember anything much, apart from that I might have had a nightmare about Thomas the Tank Engine at this time. I also, according to parenting websites, should be imitating the behaviour of adults. I still feel as though I am doing this at the age of 30, so I must be rather good at it now.

If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest are to be denounced and executed as traitors against the glory of mighty North Korea, that track would be… Opportunities by the Pet Shop Boys, by the narrowest of margins. The wit and high production are unsurpassable. However, Happy Hour by the Housemartins, Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, and Queen and Lovebug Starski would all be in contention for me.

Track by track breakdown

Peter Gabriel : “Sledgehammer”

What an opener! Big, brassy, stonking pop, that puts Phil Collins in his place… Peter Gabriel was the best at Genesis, and the best at 80’s pop. And the video is enjoyably mental too. Would that every Now! album opened with a track this great.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 7

All Day in the Hole

A name I use far too much. Nigel Slater. It can’t be helped. Unlike any of the other chefs and cooks, he is neither of those things first. He is foremost an eater. And he likes normal things. A lump of cheese, a good roast with trimmings, a bacon sandwich, smarties. He is refreshingly normal in a world that prides itself on being flashy.

So you can imagine how happy I was, when in last week’s Observer, he had created a Frankenstein’s monster of two of the most comforting meals in the known world. Toad in the Hole and the Full English Breakfast.

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I waited all week to do this, and on Saturday my chance came- I visited my sister, who had to get a flight in the morning, and who has recently converted from vegetarianism. It went down well, and as an extra treat, she took a photo of it, so for once, there is an appealing photo of something I have cooked!

The recipe is here, as it would be pretty shameless of me to reproduce it verbatim as if it were my own idea.

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The one addition I put in is a dash of Worcester sauce in the batter mix. Along with the mustard, I found it gave it a brown sauce tang, which is essential with a good brekkie.

Worth staying hungry for 40 minutes for.

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Music Monday Mixtape – Atmosfear

So named after the board game that came with a VHS tape, that mocked and taunted you as you played it. If you weren’t a child in the 90’s, here it is;

Which gives me a tenuous Hallowe’en link if nothing else, though this mixtape has little to do with Hallowe’en. It does contain what I consider to be the scariest song of all time, the Freudian nightmare that is Aphex Twin’s Little Lord Fauntleroy mix of Come to Daddy.

In reality, however, this is a mixtape of songs with an atmosphere, either conveying some emotion, or taking you to a place in spirit. I won’t spell it out (apart from the fear that Richard D. James can instil in a body), and just hope that these songs do the same for you, non gender denominative reader/listener.

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Music Monday- October 27th 2014

The other weekend, this was interpolated into Pharrell Williams’ Happy on the X Factor, in a piece that managed to take all the joy from Happy, and the emotion and drama from this song.

Here it is, sung by a foetus, with the lovely voice of Liz Fraser. Still sends shivers.

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Tender roast beef, with mustard and cream baked leeks

I actually had this on Thursday, but it’s being published on a Sunday, the holy day of roasts.

Leeks are in season at the moment, and also have the benefit of being really nice. Oniony but fresh. Cooking them in a mustard sauce basically combines the best bits of beef and mustard, and the best parts of a leek and potato pie (sans potatoes) two great, classic combinations.

Easier to make this at the weekend- I had to go like the clappers to get this cooked after work to eat before 9 pm. At the weekend you can cook it slower and lower and really get the best beef.

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Ingredients

Beef

A nice beef joint
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
Bay
Sage
Thyme
Rosemary

Leeks

3 large leeks
250 ml milk
25g flour
25g butter
100g cheddar
25g hard strong cheese (parmesan or pecorino)
1 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp English mustard
Handful of breadcrumbs

Method

Set the oven to around 220c.

Continue reading Tender roast beef, with mustard and cream baked leeks

‘Cleansing the stock’ and other ways governments talk about human beings

‘Cleansing the stock’ and other ways governments talk about human beings- George Monbiot

Most of me hates a world where this foul, euphemistic language can be used to hide the sick intent of our governments. But a small part of me finds some of the more tasteless ones funny.

Shake ‘n’ bake, as a term for using the chemical weapon white phosphorous to flush people out of buildings to blow them up tickled me. Evil but possessed of a certain vicious wit. And bug splats for the innocent people caught in drone strikes.

By the way, that’s our team, the ‘good guys’ in this war using chemical weapons. We should be so proud.

Railay Bay- 8th- 10th December

Railay Bay has no roads, and can only be reached by longtail boat. Our final stop in Thailand is here, and we hop on one round to the bay.

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We get there, and after getting a little lost, we find our hotel. On the way, however, monkeys are running around the rooftops. This makes the entire trip! As this is our final stop in Asia, we treat ourselves to a really nice hotel, with a rooftop pool overlooking the sea. It is absolutely brilliant for laid back relaxing, and the view is spectacular.

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Continue reading Railay Bay- 8th- 10th December

Now That’s What I Call Music 6

220px-Now_6_United_Kingdom

This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- 25th November 1985

Music History

Not a whole lot of change since the summer, as the bands included prove! Queen seem to get to open up a lot of these albums, but then, it’s Queen during their second peak, so that makes sense.

Me History

This album came out two days before my little sister was born. I don’t think I ever had the childish jealousy thing with her. I’d have to ask my Mum to be sure. Anyways, my little sister was born. 28 years later she will be best man at my wedding, and in between she remains one of my best friends. I shall try to remember anything humiliating that coincides with the dates of these releases to shame her if she reads this…

If I had to save one track from this album, and Paul Young would get all the rest to put in his evil, evil mouth, that track would be… Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush, because Kate Bush is one of the greatest things about music, and Hounds of Love is one of the greatest albums. Not a whole lot of competition on this album, though Eurythmics deserve honourable mention.

Track by track breakdown

Queen : “One Vision”

In which Queen channel AC/DC, fantastically. Still riding a wave of greatness. Dreading reaching 1991 at this rate.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 6