pho

May 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Chilli flower

Its been two and a half months since we moved to Darwin. In that time, I have started making a basket out of scrap material collected over my 29 years, made huge amounts of pickled cucumbers, watched far to many murder mysteries, tried to commit myself to balancing on my head at least once a day, finally got a job, and consumed large quantities of pho. AND pho could just so happen to be the very best thing that has happened to me since I arrived. A traditional Vietnamese soup, it’s so easy to make, and so so tasty.

As I have learnt, there are a few things you need to consider when making pho. The first is your stock. I always recommend people make their own stock out of organic meat, rather than buying it from the store. Not just because it tastes so much better but because homemade stock is very very good for you.

For pho, I have made and used stock from chicken, beef and fish. All work well, just adding a slightly different flavour. Just remember that fish stock can be quite strong, so adjust the quantities as needed.

The next thing you need to consider is the herbs you garnish your pho with. My favourite by far is Thai basil, but you can also use coriander, mint and traditional basil or combinations of each.

light in out backyard

How to make stock

To make stock, I usually use the leftover bones and carcass from the previous nights roast dinner (about 1 – 2 kg). If I haven’t had a roast in a while, I will sometimes use 4 chicken drumsticks instead. I will place them in a large pot with one or two bay leaves and a good pinch of salt. Some people add vegetable scraps too and you can if you want. This is then covered with water, (about 4 – 6 litres) and brought to the boil before leaving to simmer for 3 – 4 hours, skimming the scum as needed. This can then be frozen into serve size portions (say two cups each) and used when needed. It will keep in the fridge for about 4 days and in the freezer for 3 – 4 months.

Pho (serves 4)

For the broth

4 cups stock
4 cups water
4 star anise
1 – 2 cinnamon quills
1 inch piece of ginger cut in half
1 onion cut into quarters
4 cloves garlic peeled
1/3 cup fish sauce

To serve
375 g flat rice noodles
Roughly 300 g organic beef very thinly sliced
2 limes cut into quarters
A bunch of fresh Thai basil
About 200 g beansprouts
2 fresh chillies cut into strips
Chilli sauce (optional)
Hoisin sauce (optional)
Additional fish sauce

Method

Place, stock, water, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, onion, garlic and fish sauce in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and allow to simmer for around 30 minutes.

In the meantime, cook rice noodles as per package suggestions, and arrange limes, basil, bean sprouts, chilli and sauces on a serving plate in the middle of your table.

Divide the cooked noodles into 4 bowls. Place the raw beef strips on top and cover with steaming hot broth. The hot broth will cook the meat as it makes its way to the table. Allow people to add the additional ingredients in the centre of your table, as per their liking.

pho with condiments

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jerusalem artichoke and leek soup

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Its cold again. Winds carrying a deep bite. The chill sinking into all the corners of the city, making its way up my street, into my house and crawling up through my toes and fingertips.  Still, not so bad that it can’t be fixed with a steaming bowl of soup, a hot water bottle tied to my kidneys and a woolen blanket wrapped around my waist. It does require a waddle rather than a walk, but somehow the heater alternative is only reserved for very special occasions. A hard-line habit, that I’m telling you, a part of me is looking forward to the day I grow out of.

But winter also comes with so many wonderful and soothing vegetables. I talked about kale before – with its leaves of grandma skin. And in following that thought, its only fair I offer you a recipe from the wizened old Jerusalem artichoke – wrinkled like grandpa memories.

Simple and good, a bowl of this soup on a cold winters day is sure to make you delighted! And like all the best recipes, it starts with butter!

Ingredients
40 g butter
2 cloves garlic
1 large leek
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
600 g Jerusalem artichoke
200 g potatoes
750 ml stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C /390°F

Roast the artichokes and potatoes in the oven along with a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste until cooked through (about 45 minutes).

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the garlic and leek. Fry until soft.  Add all the remaining ingredients including the roasted vegetables and bring to the boil.  Puree. Add salt and pepper to taste and  serve with crusty bread.

zucchini and bacon soup

March 23, 2011 § 5 Comments

Bacon is a treat for me. I rarely purchase it because I worry about how happy those little pigs might have been in their lives. But as much as the well-behaved wholesome environmentalist in me protests, I secretly love bacon. I have tried not to, but the pleasure has remained, pure bacon enjoyment when it is on my plate. So in order to overcome my internal battles, I have justified eating it every now and again, provided its happy bacon.  The bacon I have used in this recipe is biodynamic and free range, which if you are in Melbourne, you can find at Belmore Biodynamic Meats in Thornbury.

Now I also happen to think that a very good place for bacon, possibly even the best, is in soup. In saying that, I  have to admit I have a bit of a soup obsession. It is probably my most favourite food in the whole wide world. If I had to choose just one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it would be soup, no questions asked.

This soup came about because as usual for this time of year there are whale like zucchini’s everywhere. I think the zucchini is balanced nicely with the richness of the bacon and the freshness of the lemon and thyme. You may have begun to notice my love affair with lemon and thyme… if  not, Im sure you soon will, they seem to make their way into a lot of my cooking these days.

Recipe for zucchini and bacon soup
Good splash olive oil
1 large onion diced
4 – 5 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp paprika
zest of 1/2 a lemon
3 – 4 medium-sized potatoes (I used toolangi delights, purple and beautiful)
About 1.2 kg zucchini
1 good tsp good quality vegetable stock
couple of sprigs thyme plus more for garnish
4 free range organic bacon rashers
Juice of half a lemon


In a large saucepan saute the onions and garlic until soft. Add the paprika and lemon zest and stir until fragrant. Add the potatoes, zucchini, stock, salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are nice and soft. Add the thyme, simmer for a tiny bit longer and then blend with a potato masher.  If you have a blender feel free to use that, I don’t have one so i work by hand but I also like the no machine approach of the potato masher because I’m a bit quaint like that.

Slice up the bacon and fry in a pan until browned. Add to the soup along with the fresh lemon juice.

Serve in nice deep bowls and top with a bit more lemon rind and fresh thyme.

Delicious!

Serves 4 big bowls with a bit left over for lunch the next day. Because soup is always better the next day!

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