What did I get when I mixed yogurt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, onion, garlic, fresh chillies and tomato passata into a pan of ground lamb with peas, as per Madhur Jaffrey’s instructions? Something that tasted exactly like ground lamb with peas. Now, I will have lost some flavor when I poured off about a cup’s worth of rendered fat (not buying from that butcher again), but still. With this many ingredients, I had expected a bit of a wallop to the taste buds. But no. Just lamb and peas. Curious, very curious.
A do-ahead meal was required to eat with friends after a trip to the zoo. There were ravenous kids, food-loving adults and rosy cheeks for everyone, so we needed fun, fast, tasty food. Sandwiches with cold, egg-stuffed, bacon-wrapped meatloaf were it. I baked the loaf in the morning, it cooled while we admired Artis’ new baby chimp and when we got home all we had to do was slice, slather (with mayo), slap on some bread and eat. Refined it was not, but those rosy cheeks were chomping happily.
After four months of leave, I am back to work. Back to rushed dinner times and new to days without Ducky (boohoo!). In preparation, I have been auditioning quick, tasty dinners. And while not exactly seasonal, salads play the part rather well. Like this Vietnamese salad with duck. Mixing the dressing and prepping salad ingredients happens while the duck cooks and rests. Slicing the meat and assembling plates takes a few minutes. With bread on the side, dinner can be done in under half an hour, and I am free to nom on those cheeks I have missed.
Vietnamese salad with duck breast
Adapted from Dinner in a Dash, Lindsey Bareham
- 1 duck breast
- 1 red onion
- 1 bag of salad greens
- 2 carrots
- 1 small cucumber
- Handful of cilantro leaves
- A few mint leaves
For the dressing:
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla) or similar
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
Score the skin of the duck breast, cutting down to the flesh, but not into it. Heat a skillet, put in the duck breast skin side down and sear over high heat for about 6 minutes, until golden brown. Turn over and fry for about 4 more minutes, until it feels springy when pressed. Set aside for at least ten minutes before slicing.
While the duck is frying, mix the ingredients for the dressing and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Peel the onion and slice into thin half moons. Add the onion to the dressing, leave to stand. Peel the carrots and slice into thin coins. Peel the cucumber, scrape out the seeds and slice thinly into diagonal slices. Add the coins and slices to the dressing, mix thoroughly. Shred the cilantro and mint. Add the cilantro to the vegetables.
After its rest, slice the duck breast into thick slices on the diagonal. Divide the salad leaves over two plates (wash and dry first, if the bag tells you to), top with the dressing and vegetables. Finish with the duck slices and scatter over the mint. Done.
Ducky´s arrival has turned me into a potato eater. Or nearer to one than I have ever been, because I want to show her it is possible. It seems so useful for a Dutch baby, appreciating potatoes. And so I peel and I boil and I eat. I’m not quite there yet, but tolerance is nigh. This salad, for instance, I would eat again. Although with strong flavors like dill, raw onion, sweet-sour apple and pungent herring, I am not sure I actually tasted the offending orbs. But, eh. Baby steps for the baby.
Potato herring salad
From Koken met Sylvia Witteman, slightly adapted
- 5 firm potatoes
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 onion
- 1 apple
- large bunch of dill
- 125 gr sour cream
- 50 gr natural yogurt
- salt, pepper, sugar
Boil the potatoes in their peel. When cooked, drain and pull off the skin. Cut into small cubes. Peel the cucumber, scrape seeds out and slice the flesh into small cubes as well. Peel and dice the onion. Peel, core and dice the apple. Cut the herring into smallish chunks. Mix potatoes, cucumber, onion, apple and herring in a large bowl.
Chop the dill finely. Mix the sour cream with the yogurt and dill, season with salt, pepper and a small pinch of sugar. Pour over the ingredients in the bowl and gently fold in. Leave for thirty minutes for the flavors to get acquainted.
My Turkish minimarket has been surprising me lately. Along with the cut-price produce and vats of cheap olives you’d expect, I have come across purple carrots, tins of organic San Marzano tomatoes and a growing herb collection. Recently, I found fresh sage there to liven up a pan of toad in the hole. I was so smitten with the intrigue the soft leaves brought to the kind, comfortable food that I ate quite a bit more than my fair share. If all the newcomers to the shop are this good, I will have to buy me some purple carrots soon.
Toad in the hole with sage and onion
Slightly adapted from Recipes to Know by Heart, Xanthe Clay
- 100 gr flour
- 2 eggs
- 225 ml milk
- 25 gr butter, melted
- 2 branches of thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 6 chipolata sausages
- 2 onions
- 6 sage leaves
- Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Mix the flour with the eggs and then gradually whisk in the milk to create a smooth batter. Add a pinch of salt and beat in the melted butter and the leaves from the thyme branches. Set aside.
Peel the onions and, leaving the root end in tact, cut into thin wedges. Pour about 2 tbsp of oil into a baking dish and toss the onions in it. Roast in the hot oven for about 10 minutes, until onions are soft and brown around the edges. Toss in the sausages, roll around to get them glistening, then pour in the batter and scatter over sage leaves. Cook for 25-30 minutes, until brown and puffed.