Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Top-to-Toe Radish Stirfry

Green tops and pink bottoms! Such a beautiful combination.
No I don't mean clothes (my fashion-savvy sister will probably axe me). I mean radishes.
I got a bunch of them while working at Pimlico farmers' market on saturday, purely because they looked too pink and pretty to miss. It's not a ditzy girly thing. Just look! They are pretty.

I like radishes raw and sliced thinly to add a little kick to salads, or in tzatziki style dips. But I don't think many people know that radishes are absolutely delicious cooked too! Also, did you know that the radish leaves can be eaten too, much like beetroot? The leaves look a little like pea shoots, but have a slight radish-y sharpness. Here's a super fast stirfry with some sesame oil, garlic and spring onions (also bang in season) to celebrate the whole radish, from top to toe!

Top-to-Toe Radish Stirfry
1 bunch of radishes, washed
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 spring onion (white and green parts), chopped
1 tsp fish sauce (or you can use naturally fermented soy sauce)
dash of white pepper
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Separate the leaves from the radish roots. Quarter the roots.
2. Heat pan over medium-high heat, and add the evoo. Add the white parts of the spring onion, garlic and sesame oil and toss for 1-2 min.
3. Add the radish roots and stir-fry for 3-4 min till their insides turn from an opaque white

to a glossy translucence.

4. Add the radish leaves and the seasoning, and stir-fry for 1 more min until the radish leaves are wilted. Scatter the chopped green parts of the spring onion over to serve.

I really like my radish cooked for a change. The sharpness of the radish mellows, and it takes on a mild daikon radish/ turnip-like sweetness. The leaves add a nice contrast of texture (a bit like pea shoots), and of course, you can never go wrong with sesame oil and toasted garlic!

Oh and if you're wondering why you only see pink bottoms but no green tops in the plastic bags of radishes from Tesco's, and you feel unfairly shortchanged, it's time to make a trip down to the farmer's market ;)

This is part of Hearth and Soul Blog Hop.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

To market, to market, to buy...

Strawberries! I love berries, can't wait for the rest of the berries to appear.

FRESH onions, not spring onions. Tender onions without the papery skins. I'm intrigued.

Spring means lots of salad greens, including special ones like tatsoi.
I, as an Asian, am ashamed to say I have no idea what it is.

Fresh peas! In a completely different league from frozen peas.

Beautiful pillowy heads of lettuce

Radishes blushing pink and prettily

Free range eggs. My kitchen staple.

And some other photos of beautiful food:

Artichokes. I heard they're a pain to prepare, but oh they are gorgeous.

Spider crab. Ugliest creature I've ever seen but I heard it's delicious.

The skinny new carrots of spring

Goat's cheese. Don't ask me why there's an orange one.

Saag Aloo Pie. I got some tips on how to make it (: Time to get creative with my saag aloo?

Enough said.

I love working at Pimlico farmer's market. And gosh, I love spring.

This is part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Simplified Nonya Achar (Peranakan Spicy Pickled Vegetables)

Having the cucumber and shallot pickled salad and the sambal chilli together made me think of a spicy cucumber pickle that is one of my absolute favourite accompaniment to most things coconut. It's the Nonya achar!

The Peranakan culture is unique to Singapore and Malaysia, a result of the marriage between the Straits Chinese and indigenous Malays, and the best part about this (to me) is the Nonya cuisine that develops, a mix of chinese cooking techniques and ingredients with malay spices-- the best of both worlds! The Nonya achar is quite different from your usual pickled gherkin, nor the Indian achar. It's more like a super aromatic and spicy piccalilli, and besides cucumber, can have cauliflower, long beans, carrots, and cabbage.

I used the vegetables that I had at hand/were on offer, and replaced a lot of the more exotic ingredients with the ones that I could find readily, so I guess it's not as authentic or mind-blowing as it could be, but it's still very good.

Simplified Nonya Achar
makes about 2 cups (this is a small batch achar)
1 medium cucumber
1 medium carrot
small handful of stringless runner beans
1/2 cup of chopped fresh pineapple (for natural sweetness (: )
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (and/or chopped toasted peanuts)
3 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp whey (optional)

For the spice paste (rempah)
6 shallots (or 1 red onion)
1 clove of garlic
1 cm slice of ginger
1-2 tsp ground turmeric (originally fresh turmeric)
1 tbsp hot chilli powder (originally a mix of dried red chillies, fresh red chillies, and birds' eye chilli)
1 tbsp toasted belachan (fermented shrimp paste)
2 macadamia or brazil nuts (originally candlenuts, but it's harder to find out of southeast asia)

1. Chop the cucumbers and carrots into bite sized sticks, and slice the runner beans diagonally.

2. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sea salt over the cucumbers and leave them for 30 mins to sweat.

3. Bring the vinegar to the boil with 1/2 cup of water, 1 tsp of sea salt and 1 tsp of sugar. Blanch the carrots and the runner beans.

4. Dry your vegetables! This makes for crunchier pickles!

Drain, rinse and squeeze the cucumbers.

Lay the carrots and runner beans out on trays to dry
(In Singapore where it's 36 degrees celsius almost all the time, just leave them out in the sun. Here in london where the skies are grey, I chose to dry them out in an oven turned to a very low heat)

5. Blend all the rempah ingredients. Add oil to a hot pan and stir fry the spice paste over medium low heat till aromatic, about 15 min. Add the remaining rice vinegar, sea salt and sugar, bring to a boil and then remove from heat to let cool.

6. In a glass (or other non-reactive) bowl, mix the rempah with the vegetables pineapples and whey (if using), sprinkling the toasted sesame seeds over.

7. Resist the temptation to eat it straight away and let the vegetables sit in the marinade.

It will seem like the marinade can't really cover the vegetables, but just press them down into the jar. The next day the vegetables will release some of their own water.

Fragrant with toasted chilli and spices, and bursting with a tart sweetness, this pickle gets better after a day or two in the fridge, and can keep for about a week (I read a month somewhere. hmm oh well you will definitely finish before then). That's the key to a good pickle-- time! The flavours start to meld and become more intense.

This is a small batch achar because it's my first time making it. I looked at this, this, and this for reference. The achar turned out really good, but my aunt's achar still wins. Maybe when I go home for summer I'll grill her and try this again with the proper ingredients. For now, I'm very very happily eating my way through my simplified Nonya achar (:

This is part of Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday and Malaysian Monday.
UPDATE: I've made this again with tips from my aunt and it's an even simpler recipe this time, using ingredients that are wholly british and in season, sans pineapple and belachan. Quite shit-amazing.