Saucy red curry udon stir-fry

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It’s pitch dark outside and it’s only 5pm at the moment. It’s time embrace noodle soups and saucy stir-fries!

When I first went to Adelaide, Australia in 1996, the first meal that my Aussie mum Lisa made for me was Tom Ka Gai, the fragrant coconut soup which I absolutely love now. Unfortunately at the time, as a 12 year old I have never in my life tasted coconut milk, let alone Thai food, I couldn’t finish the bowl. (sorry..) It was just.. so strange for me. I think she realized that I found it too exotic and weird, because for dinner she ended up giving me mildly spicy chicken chippies and fish fingers. I ate them eagerly of course. Who doesn’t like fried things? I recalled the memory years later to Lisa, and she said she knew that every kid likes them and it wasn’t as exotic as Tom Ka Gai. Even now when I make the soup, it reminds me of that first day when I walked into her home. It was on a warm sunny spring day and the entrance to her house smelled strongly of fragrant jasmine bushes. I was welcomed by Lisa and her daughter Heidi. They bought a book (possibly a travel guide? I’m not so sure) with names of Korean food translated into English. After eating the strange soup, they asked me to circle all the food I liked from the book. Since then, Kimchi has been a staple at her house, bought from the market on fridays. ūüôā

Since my first Thai food experience, I have learned to love it. Australia has the best Thai food I have ever tasted anywhere. (I haven’t been to Thailand yet) You can get great bowls of curries and soups at almost any decent looking thai restaurant or stalls at a food market, like in or around the¬†Adelaide Central Market which I really miss.

Having tasted such quality thai food, needless to say it was very disappointing when I tried one thai restaurant after another in Germany that were mediocre at best. Plus, most Germans can’t eat spicy food, so whenever I went to a thai place, I had to ask them to make it “Thai-scharf, bitte” (“Thai-spicy please”) or ask for an extra bowl of chili and Sriracha sauce. Since then I have given up on trying to find a good Thai place, but the upside to this was I learned to cook Thai food. The basic ingredients like lemongrass, kefir lime leaves, galangal, curry pastes, thai chili, palm sugar, and fish sauce can be found at most Asian markets here, if not fresh then frozen.

This recipe is clearly NOT authentic, but it’s easy to make and has many basic flavours of thai food. The roux made with red curry paste takes 5 minutes to make and you can add any vegetable you have in the fridge. If you can’t find galangal, then ginger will do. But have a visit to the Asian market and buy lemongrass, kefir lime leaves, and galangal. You can freeze them so making thai food is a breeze if you are in for a cozy bowl of curry or a noodle stir-fry on a dark wintery day like today.

Red curry roux udon stir-fry

Inspired and adapted from Veganomicon Cookbook

Serves: 2

400g Fresh udon noodles

For the red curry roux,

1 tsp all-purpose flour

1.5 tsp coconut oil or vegetable oil

2-3 tsp red curry paste (start with less. Add more if the sauce doesn’t strong enough)

60ml (1/3 cup) coconut milk

100ml hot water or vegetable stock

For the stir-fry,

A good knob of coconut oil or vegetable oil with high smoking point (not olive oil)

1 onion, sliced into half-moon shape

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2-3cm piece of galangal or ginger, very finely chopped

2 lemongrass stalks, bottom 4 cm part only, tough outer layers removed, very finely chopped

2 kefir lime leaves

1-2 thai chili or any spicy chili you have on hand (more or less, depending on how spicy you like your food)

Two or three big handfuls of chopped whatever vegetables you have (Zucchini, carrots, broccoli, kale, mushrooms, and etc. If you are using sturdier veggie like broccoli, chop them up into small florets)

Tofu (optional)

40ml-60ml water or vegetable stock as you need it

A splash or two fish sauce OR soy sauce if you are vegetarian

Lime wedges and coriander (cilantro) and/or thai basil leaves to serve

1. First, make the roux. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add the flour. Stir to make a paste and cook for 2-3 minutes until the raw smell of flour disappears and the paste looks lightly golden.

2. Add the red curry paste to the roux. Mix well. Slowly stir in the water or stock, whisking vigorously to get rid of the lumps. Add the coconut milk. Keep whisking until the sauce becomes somewhat thick and there’s no lump visible.

3. At this point, boil the water and cook the noodles according to the direction on the packet. Refresh under cold water and let them drain while you make the stir-fry.

4. Heat a deep frying pan or (preferably) a wok over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and fry until slightly golden. Add the galangal or ginger, garlic, chili, lime leaves, and lemongrass and stir-fry for 1 minute or until fragrant. Do not burn. If they seem to be cooking too fast, turn down the heat.

5. Add the chopped vegetables and stir-fry until tender or slightly tender, depending on your taste.

6. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the udon noodle and 40ml of water/veg stock and stir-fry until well combined.

7. Add the red curry sauce at once and quickly but gently mix in with the noodles until well combined and warmed through. Add the fish sauce or soy sauce to taste.

8. Serve with a wedge of lime and a good sprinkle of coriander and/or thai basil leaves.

Pumpkin pie porridge with caramelized apple wedges

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Winter is slowly creeping in on us here in Germany. The morning air has become crisp, but not too crisp yet that your nose hurts when you breath in. The moment I open the window first thing in the morning, it wakes me up right away, and it also makes me long for a big mug of black tea and warm breakfast that sticks to my ribs.

In the summer months I usually make myself a big glass of smoothie or a bowl of granola, and a shot of espresso maybe, because it’s just too hot to drink tea. Porridge is a regular at my apartment in the winter months. I vary the toppings, spices, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits I add in the basic formula (1 part oats to 2 part liquid). ¬†This porridge I made the other day was definitely a winner. I had left over pumpkin puree from a failed attempt at making a individually portioned pumpkin pie in jars (don’t ask. I’m still disappointed at my failure..). I had just enough puree to make a big bowl the next morning to console myself and indulge in self-pity. Seriously, there’s nothing worse than having a failure in my kitchen, one of few place where I feel like I have some kind of control. But I made a pumpkin pie porridge out this little kitchen disaster. You know what they say. If you have a pile of crap, make a veggie garden!

If you live in the states, I’m sure it’s no problem to pop into a shop to buy a canned pumpkin puree. But no such thing exist in Germany as far as I know. I found one kind at my organic store, but it was so watery that I couldn’t really use it for baking. But pumpkins and squashes are in abundance at this time of the year. Having a pumpkin and baking it in the oven warms up the kitchen as well, which makes me feel all cozy and I can’t wait for Christmas to come.

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I say make a batch of pumpkin puree today (or butternut squash or other kinds of squashes/pumpkins). It will last for 3-4 days in an air-tight container. You can make various things with it, like this pumpkin pie porridge, pumpkin pancakes, or soup. It does stretch a long way!

Pumpkin pie porridge with caramelized apple wedges

Serves 1 but it can be easily doubled or tripled

For porridge

1/2 cup or 50g of old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

1/3 cup or 80ml pumpkin puree* (recipe down below)

1/3+ cup water

1/3+ cup milk of your choice (cow, oat, spelt, soy, almond……)

A splash of cream if you feel indulgent

1/4-1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (recipe here from Joy the Baker)- this is not optional!

A pinch of salt

For caramelized apple

A small knob of butter or ghee

1 apple of your choice

a sprig of thyme (optional)

1 tsp soft brown sugar

A tiny pinch of salt (will bring out the flavor of the apple)

To serve: pure maple syrup, and nuts or seeds of your choice (such as, toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, hemp hearts, and etc)

1. Add all the ingredients for porridge in a small but heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to simmer. Watch carefully while it comes to a simmer. Do not leave the stove. Turn the heat down to low and let it gently simmer for 10 minutes until it thickens and the oats are tender. Stir 2-3 times while it simmers to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If the porridge is thickening at a faster rate than you’d like, add a splash of water and/or milk.

2. Cut the apple in wedges. Heat the butter or ghee in a small frying pan in a medium heat. Lay the wedges in the pan and let them brown lightly. Sprinkle with herbs if using. Flip the wedges to brown the other side. Once they are golden, sprinkle with brown sugar and gently push them around the pan until the sugar has melted and nicely caramelized. Remove the pan from heat.

3. Enjoy the bowl of this warming porridge with apple wedges. Maple syrup is a great choice as sweetener. Sprinkle with nuts such as walnuts if you like.

*Pumpkin puree

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut the pumpkin or squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and membrane.

2. Lightly brush the cut sides with oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Lay the cut side down on a baking tin lined with baking paper. Bake for 30-40 minutes or longer depending on the size of your pumpkin, until the flesh is very soft.

3. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and puree in a hand held blender or folk. Store in an air-tight container up to 3-4 days in the fridge.