Spicy sweet potato & tamarind soup

This is the most wonderful and complex soup I have had for a while and I already have some soup recipes on this blog that are truly wonderful. The soup combines tamarind with sweet potato and many other good ingredients such as cumin, coconut milk, star anise – the result is a mix of flavour competing for attention in a marvellous way. It is a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I found on the Times Online site. This is what he says:

Tamarind is a sharp and sour paste extracted from the seed pods that grow on trees in southeast Asia and India. You’ll find it in most supermarkets. The sweetness from the potato complements the sharpness from the tamarind perfectly in this recipe. You can substitute the potato with butternut squash or really ripe plantain.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

50ml sesame oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 star anise
700g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
400ml coconut milk
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp light soy sauce
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of basil and mint leaves, shredded

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, chilli (seeds as well) and dry spices and fry for a minute until the spices smell fragrant.

Add the potatoes and pour in the coconut milk. Stir in the tamarind and soy sauce, then add enough stock to cover the potatoes. Bring the soup to the boil, cover with a lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Pick out the star anise and discard.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in more stock or water until you have the right consistency, then reheat. Season with more soy sauce or salt to taste and add the herbs just before serving.

I also added some jambon pieces recently cut off the bone. Perfect texture and salty flavour to complement the soup.

Quick stir-fried pork with peppers, carrots & cashews

This is one of those dishes I make when I have bits of vegetables left in the fridge, a few peppers about to wilt, a carrot, bits of ginger, fresh chillis etc. It can take anything that is crunchy after stir-frying and the meat can be beef or pork. I use Ken Hom’s marinade from Chinese Cookery, which I don’t think would work that well with chicken.

Tonight I used what was in the fridge:
1 yellow pepper chopped into square chunks
1 small carrot roll cut
2 fresh red chilli finely chopped
1 1/2 inch fresh ginger finely chopped
1 large pork steak cut into strips
1 small onion sliced lengthways
1 clove garlic finelly chopped
handful of cashew nuts ideally roasted or dry-fried beforehand
(other ingredients I could have used from my cupboard – canned water chesnuts or bamboo shoots)

Marinade:
1 tsp cornflour
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
2 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt

Cut the meat in narrow strips 1 1/2 inch long, mix well with the marinade and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Heat groundnut oil in a wok until smokes and flash fry chilli, garlic and ginger for a minute. Add meat and continue to fry it on high, for about 2-3 minutes or until you can’t see any raw or pink bits. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for another 2 minutes or longer – reaching the fine line between the meat being done and the vegetables still being crispy. If things look a bit dry, I add several squirts of catsup, the asian brown variety – I bought mine at local M&S and it’s called Kecap Manis (can’t find it anywhere online).

I normally serve this with basmati rice (Waitrose aromatic), adding turmeric to the boiling water for colour. I find jasmine tea to be the best drink accompanying chinese food in general.