Monday, 16 June 2014

Bun cha bonanza!

By: Mrs Robot

MiMi Aye's bun cha - so good I had to copy them!
From this blog it probably looks like I don’t do as much cooking as Mr Robot. I actually cook quite a lot, but it’s usually the sort of thing where I look at what ingredients we have in the kitchen and work out what I can turn them into. A sort of day-in, day-out invention test, if you like. Today, though, I did make something from a cookbook. At the launch for MiMi Aye’s book Noodle!, she served little Vietnamese pork patties (bun cha; excuse my lack of accents), and they were so good I decided to make some to treat our workmates. I made the patties yesterday and refrigerated them overnight, and assembled the food before work today.

I copied MiMi Aye’s serving method from the book launch. She’d balanced the patties and some rice noodles on a lettuce leaf so they could be eaten as finger food. I didn’t make any pickles, because it seemed likely to get all jumbled up when I transported the things to work, and I jammed each little leaf-noodle-patty pile together with a cocktail stick. I made the dipping sauce, but put it in a little squeezy bottle for practicality. It’d be a bit embarrassing having to get a new keyboard from computer services because someone had dropped fish sauce in the old one! Also it allowed people to have as much or as little sauce as they liked.
Le Creuset grillpans are honestly worth every penny. Fab results.
Feedback from both teams was excellent – mine were very taken with the look of the patties, while Mr Robot’s workmates loved the sauce. If you have access to your fridge at work, this would make an outstanding packed lunch dish.

I really like these patties. I’m tempted to experiment further with them. After all, if you’ve got lettuce and a patty, you’re nearly into burger territory. Add a sesame seed bun, make up some garlic and chili mayo with a dash of fish sauce in it to replace the dipping sauce, and it could be a winner. The patties would also be great done on skewers on the barbecue, as a sort of Vietnamese kofte, served up with a green leaf salad, and with the dipping sauce minus the water as a salad dressing.

As usual, we don’t give out the recipes, but if you mosey on over to MiMi Aye’s website, Meemalee, she’ll direct you to places where you can buy the book.
Nice dish of grilled patties. I ate some at this stage - quality control, you understand.

All images (c) PP Gettins

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Recipe(s) Review: Morito Three Ways

Recipes from Morito by Sam & Sam Clark
By: Mr Robot

So the wife has already waxed (waxen?) lyric about Sam & Sam coming to Bath to talk about the Morito book. She has also cooked the most delicious courgette tortilla though I'm afraid there are no pictures because we were both too bloody starving. But trust me it's a darn good way to clear a courgette (or indeed egg) glut.

However as I've noted before, my first instinct is to hit the pork belly, and since Morito has two recipes on adjoining pages the only appropriate response is to declare Fornicate It and do them both. 

Double pig

Perhaps facile to say (hence it comes so naturally) they are variants on a theme: rub with goodness, roast as you will, and dress afterwards. Dress the dish that is: I don't think The Sams are suggesting you dally with pork fat naked.

Why god gave us trousers

 So the recipes in question are:
     Chicharrones (described as basically pork scratchings with the meat still on!) and
     PX, meaning done with Pedro Ximenez sherry

Spagnophiles that we are, we have oodles of sherry kicking around but PX is a bit challenging for casual drinking so we're always up for a good use for it.

Pedro Ximenez is not, repeat NOT, casual

Both recipes call for a kilo of meat each, so I bought one kilo and halved them - regular readers will recognise the massive restraint involved here. Chicharrones, then, are seasoned meatside with garlic and fennel, while the PX is garlic and rosemary, then cook your pig.

I must commend The Sams for their generosity towards, and confidence in, the reader: they give a roasting method but make a point of saying, if you have a method that works, use it.

Bugger two hours roasting, this was poached Vietnamese style

This is good on two fronts: 1) a friend had already tried the chicharrones recipe and been sad about his crackling (oven seal not up to snuff would be my bet) and 2) I've found Uyen Luu's approach to be infallible.

Of course I could use my own method without the authors' permission, but it's still nice they give it.

But more, much more that this..... I did it Uyyyeeenn's Waaaay....

Anyway, do that. Hack the chicharrones into easily scoffable pieces, and with the PX piece remove crackling for serving and do same. The chicharrones simply get served with lemon and cumin, while the PX gets returned to the oven with Pedro Ximenez, sherry vinegar and bay to get stickily glazed.

Pork, you say? In sherry? Where do I sign?

By now, observant/pervert readers will be shouting YOU PROMISED ME A THREE-WAY or something and wondering where the third element is. Well it was a late decision to do what the book calls Wrinkly Potatoes but the rest of us know as spuds arrugadas. These Canarian joys are new potatoes cooked in seawater until they look like your fingers after three hours in a hot bath, but are a whole load tastier.

Now, I could've sworn an oven should be involved but the book says hob, so hob it is. Here's where it all went wrong. Undoubtedly it's my fault, but I honestly can't tell you why: maybe there was too much water; maybe not enough salt; maybe the wrong level of low-to-medium simmer; maybe it just hates me.

Whatever the reason "20-30 minutes, until water is gone and spuds are wrinkly" turned into "after an hour of getting very cross, open another beer and 17 seconds later find that all the water has gone, the pan is basically destroyed and the potatoes STILL aren't f'ing wrinkly."

See the wrinkles? Nor do I, curse it

At that point of course you curse vividly, dish up like nobody's business, try to persuade the wife that she should be at the table, the cat that she very definitely should not be on it, and admit the pork has probably suffered for sitting in a warm oven for however long. And realise you've forgotten the sodding lemon & cumin on the chicharrones.

After all that, sitting down with a triple-whack of Morito plus - bless her - Mrs R's tomates alinadas is a monstrous relief and, moreover, an absolute delight. Ok so my arrugadas were a little short on arruga but they do all the right things on the tongue.  The pork PX is sweet, sticky, slightly sour, rich, smokey; in fact it has a lot in common with char siu. The chicharrones are amazingly crispy (in your face, failure-friend) and the belated lemon & cumin give a zing to cut the fatty soft meat and increase dribblousness exponentially.

Go on - complain. I dare you.

Overall time to cook is between one hour and twenty hours, depending on how wrinkly you insist upon the potatoes being. More practically, 10-15 mins prep, 30 mins or so cooking but both pork recipes need to cool before finishing: do any of this when you can wait an hour or so before eating. You really won't be sorry.

Gratuitous pork p0rn

If you were hoping to blag a free recipe here you’ll be disappointed – we don’t do that. These cooks need to make a living just like anyone else so if you like the look, buy the book

All images (c) PP Gettins

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Recipe Review: Pad Kee Mao / Drunken Noodles

From Noodle! by MiMi Aye
By: Mr Robot

Ok, so I know the internet stalking now looks all too real, but I've just made this and had quite a lot of wine and couldn't help myself.

Unacountable lack of cocktail umbrella. Sorry.
I've been wanting to cook Drunken Noodles ever since MiMi used them to call me a wally (don't ask) so finally, today, I did it. And I beg of you, make them.

The recipe claims "15 minutes to make, 10 minutes to cook" but if your knife skills are anything like mine that's a big fat lie. And pencil in a good 20 minutes extra faffing around looking for two varieties of soy sauce, wondering whether to deseed chillies (don't), forgetting to separate the noodles with a fork then remembering then trying then having to unpick the jellied mass strand by strand and, finally, negotiating with the cat to stop fighting the Thai Basil please.

Also the 10 minutes to cook is probably true, but MiMi probably has a far bigger wok/pan than you will ever, ever own. In reality it'll take twice that long because you not so much "toss to mix" as delicately coax integration whilst silently pleading with it all not to leap out and combust. 

Don't get me wrong though - it's your (my) own ineptness getting in the way of a recipe that's remarkably simple AND fun AND massively delicious. 


Cook noodles, mix sauce. Fry onion & garlic and then chicken & veg. then - here's the fun bit - make a well in the middle and scramble eggs in. Try not to end up with lots of liquid in the middle at this point: I did, and swore.

Then another well in the middle for sauce and noodles. 

Add other deliciousness and you're about as happy as a Greedybot can be. Mrs R reckons it's the best thing from the book yet - and she's eaten the Vietnamese Pork Patties. 

MiMi's book says it should be fiery hot but that she's moderated it, and I'd go with that: double the chilli and it'll be (I imagine) quite literally incredible.

The anise from Thai / Holy Basil gives a roundness and depth that's nigh-on addictive, eggs make it rich, the sauce is - oh jeez the sauce...

So anyway, first time up I'd give it maybe an hour or a bit more to make.

But it is SO worth it. 

Final point: the recipe claims to feed four, and for once it genuinely does. Or should. There being only two of us, we had 2nds. And then some more. And then we cried because there was none left.

Is this a dynamic stir-fry shot, or someone getting their 5th portion?

(except the tub I hid in the fridge, but don't let on)

If you were hoping to blag a free recipe here you’ll be disappointed – we don’t do that. These cooks need to make a living just like anyone else so if you like the look, buy the book

All images (c) PP Gettins

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Noodlewhack! MiMi Aye's book launch

By: Mr Robot

A few months before our trip to Burma we were looking around the interweb for foodie things to get in the mood, and found MiMi Aye's excellent blog which is both stuffed with Burmese recipes and culture, and a highly entertaining read. So, as you do, we started stalking her on twitter and eventually became e-chums.

So of course we were excited when her book Noodle! came out but even more excited - and not a little amazed - to be invited to the official book launch in Big London. Extra cat food was slapped in dishes and off we trumped.

It was held in the Draper's Arms in darkest Islington and naturally the combination of First Great Western, TfL, and my own poor judgement meant we got there about an hour late. MiMi was already on her feet when we arrived and, since the place was unsurprisingly heaving, we were crammed in the doorway trying not to interrupt anyone (already on the back foot, country-mouse-wise).

What you get for turning up late
Which is kind of a long way of apologising for the bobbins picture.

Anyway it was a splendid evening. Not only did we finally get to meet MiMi in person, she'd laid on a wonderful selection of food from the book, including Burmese Rainbow Salad and homemade Bombay Mix. There was also this salted-chocolate-brownie thing that was so good I practically inhaled it.

Rainbow Salad

Chocolatey Salty Deliciousness

The Vietnamese pork patties are magnificent and worth the cover price alone.

See the big empty space at the back? I did that

We already had the book (bought on the first day out, keeners that we are) and had tried a few recipes, so it's with absolutely no favouritism that we recommend it highly.

"Ants Climbing Trees" made by my own fair hand
Nontheless we had to get a signed copy too (the existing one already being shamefully spattered) and pick up extras for friends. We got to meet a couple of other twitter-pals for the first time as well, which was great, though were sad to find we'd missed some too (easily done: as a conversational opening gambit, "so who are you on the internet?" seems somewhat lacking).


In some ways it felt a bit odd - almost fraudulent - being there, in the company of Masterchef and Bake-Off types and proper actual foodies.

Actual foodies. probably

It's a world we're a long way away from, and felt privileged to be part of it.

Thanks MiMi.

PS. We stayed on Old Street, which is full of exciting eateries. If you're in the area we can highly recommend The Reliance for lots of fine beer with a good atmosphere, and the Banh Mi place next door for an outstanding breakfast to recover

Banh Mi for breakfast: what hangovers were designed for

All images (c) PP Gettins

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Morito book talk with Sam and Sam Clark

By: Mrs Robot

moro's Sam and Sam Clark demonstrating making tortillaLast night we went to a talk by Sam and Sam Clark to promote their latest cookbook, Morito, organised by Bath bookshop Toppings. It took place in one of the churches. Both of us adore Spain and Spanish food, and we already own the first two Moro cookbooks. Of course, the Clarks don’t stop at Spain, their food encompasses a lot of other Mediterranean cuisines, but it always has strong ties to Spain and most of their other dishes work well alongside their Spanish ones - hardly surprising when you consider the Moorish influence on Spain’s food.

Morito is named after the Clarks' newest restaurant, where the method of dining isn’t based around the usual three-course structure. Instead people get a range of dishes all at once and pick and choose between them. (If you’re thinking ‘like tapas’, let me smack you. You don’t share tapas. Sharing is more akin to Greek mezze or Muslim Mediterranean ways of enjoying a meal.) Anyway, lectures on the consumption of tapas aside, it’s a jolly friendly and sociable way of eating, less formal and great fun. The recipes in Morito are therefore designed for this style of eating.

When we arrived we were given a Rebujito cocktail (a really refreshing blend of lemonade, manzanilla sherry and mint) and a Gilda. A Gilda is made with olive, anchovy, silverskin onion and pickled chili (hence its name; the slender shape of the chill was thought to resemble Rita Hayworth’s legs in the noir film Gilda!).
A plate of chill and anchovy tapas
Put the blame on Spain, boys...

We both hate anchovies.

No, we both hated anchovies.

Last night we loved them. I don't know if it was because of all the salt in the olive, or the vinegar in the onion, but somehow the combination on the cocktail stick worked. We may have to rethink our position on the fishy horrors. I never thought I’d say this about anything containing anchovies, but I could have eaten more of those tapas. !Ay, Dios de ma vida!

The talk was fairly brief. He-Sam started off, and seemed unused to giving talks, which I found quite nice; they both came across as genuine, approachable people. To begin with they talked about almonds, and little dishes of almonds got passed round, then about making the red pepper tortilla from the book, and tortilla got passed round.
A table laden with pepper, potatoes and eggs, and a cooked red pepper tortilla
Do want!
I really liked the tortilla, but Mr Robot prefers his to be traditional, with potato and onion only. (He didn’t give me his piece, though, oh no.) There’s a courgette tortilla recipe in the book, and I’ll definitely have a go at that as we end up with heaps of the things as they arrive in our Riverford vegbox each week during summer. The veggie-packed tortillas are basically pastry-free flans, and will save me faffing around making flan cases when I get into work.

As the talk went on, both Sams seemed to relax and settle down more, and it was really good to hear about their approach to food and to running a restaurant. Not for them the building of brands (though they seem to have managed that anyway!) or the trappings of celebrity chefdom, they just like cooking and exploring food. They’re very down to earth, and that’s reflected in their style of cooking, which is fuss-free, without fancy foams or spheres, just good and earthy. It was a really enjoyable talk.
A red pepper tortilla, cut into pieces, with a cocktail stick in each piece
This was delicious
The Mr or I will do a full writeup of the cookbook once we’ve made a fair few things out of it, but on a read-through it looks like we’ll be using it a lot.