Lunchtime Noodles

 

Strictly speaking, these aren’t, of course, only for lunchtime; you can have them whenever you want. In fact, they’re particularly effective after a heavy night – or so I’ve been told. In fact, the recipe they’re based on is Nigella’s Drunken Noodles – not that I’m assuming that La Lawson would indulge in too many nights where she needs an appropriate cure but…now, I’m digging that hole deeper!

I like these because they’re quick and easy to whip up from ingredients that you probably have lying around from other meals, and leftovers that could be in the fridge. And, let’s face it when you’re on holiday you probably have better things to be doing with your time than faffing about with cooking a midday meal.

This recipe feeds 2 but will stretch to more if you throw in some veggies and cold meat. We had some leftover chicken from the roast chook the other night, plus snow peas and capsicum (peppers) that we’d used last night in a noodle soup. It, therefore, made a substantial lunch for 3. There’s no coriander in the version I cooked today because my 20-year-old daughter doesn’t eat coriander – that’s a subject for a whole other story – and, to be honest, with the snow peas it had plenty of green without it.

Speaking of which, Ms 20 – who doesn’t cook – has declared that she’ll be making this dish on those times when we’re away and she has to fend for herself. It can, therefore, adapt to a uni student’s attention to detail (and budget) and be made, in need, with garlic and ginger from a squeezy tube or a jar, and a squirt of lime from a bottle in the fridge.

Which reminds me – this is more of an idea than a recipe, so don’t get too hung up on the quantities and feel free to adjust the spicing to your taste.

What you need…

  • About 1/2 a packet (around 150g) dried rice noodles – like the ones you use in pad thai.
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
  • a chunk of ginger – peeled and grated (about 1/2 a thumb size)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 lime – zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce (I like ordinary soy sauce, but hubby likes the colour you get from the dark soy sauce)
  • a wok or frypan and a burner

What you do with it…

  • Soak the rice noodles in hot water for about 8 minutes and then immediately refresh in cold water and allow to drain in a colander.
  • While the noodles are soaking:
  1. Grate your ginger, garlic and lime zest and set aside
  2. If you’re adding extra meat or veggies toss them about in a frypan and some oil and set aside.
  3. Have on standby something to toss your noodles with – a spoon in each hand works.
  4. Mix the oyster sauce and water together and set aside.
  • When your noodles are done, you can start cooking. Heat the oils in your wok or pan and add the ginger, garlic and lime zest. Sprinkle over the chilli flakes and stir well.
  • Tip in the drained rice noodles and mix everything together – you’ll need to work quite quickly.
  • Add the watery oyster sauce, soy sauce and about 1/2 of the lime juice (I use a whole lime because I really like the zesty hit of the lime).
  • If you’re using additional veggies and meat, add this now. If not, serve immediately.
  • Have some extra soy sauce close to hand – and additional chilli flakes or sriracha for people (like me) who want even more chilli.

 

 

 

Kapitan Chicken

I’ve been cooking this curry for years – it’s one of Clancy’s faves – yet as good as it tastes on the stovetop, it tastes better in a camp oven over flames. If you are going to cook it on your next adventure though, blend the spice paste up before you head out. Alternatively, make a big batch and keep some in the freezer that you can take with you.

The method I’ve given here is for a stovetop, but it translates just as well to fire. We last cooked it using the Oz Pig – mainly because it’s easier to control the heat and stir the sauce. If you’re using coals, you don’t need any on the lid.

Some notes on the ingredients

With regards to ingredients, as per usual adjust to your own taste – especially where the chilli is involved. We usually use a few large red chillis and leave some of the small ones with their seeds intact. The large red chillis won’t add a lot of heat to the dish, but they will make your paste more orange than yellow – not a big deal.

Candlenuts are something you might not have come across before – and something we’ve, in the past, left out to adapt the recipe for nut allergies. Sure, they add some authenticity to the dish, but on the other hand, they’re not really missed. If you can’t get candlenuts – which are available mostly at Asian supermarkets – macadamia nuts add a similar texture.

Belacan (Belachan) is another one you might not have come across before. It’s truly foul smelling stuff…when I say foul, I mean, really foul – another reason to mix up your paste before going on your adventure. You don’t want this stuff lying open in your tent/van/whatever.

It’s the sort of smell that seriously you wouldn’t know if it were off or not. Worse than smelly cheese, this doesn’t have the aroma of unwashed wet socks, but rather the stink of decaying shrimp. And that’s what it’s made from – fermented shrimp with a little salt. It’s then sun-dried and cut into blocks – although some stockists will sell it in a wet form that is also pretty manky.

Thankfully there are now some brands that are sold not only pre-roasted but pre-cut into individually sealed portion controlled sizes. Trust me, that is a breath of fresh air for the fridge.

So why would we cook with something that smells as gross as this? Simply because it adds that indefinable but absolutely necessary pungency to Malaysian cooking. (It’s also used widely in Thai, Laotian, Indonesian, Singapore and other South East Asian cuisines). It’s the belacan that gives sambal its potency, and the taste that allows the finished product to take you back to that Hawker’s Market in Penang.

Galangal is similar to ginger, but has a different texture and is more citrusy in taste. If you can’t get it, use more ginger.

Last night I couldn’t be faffed jointing a whole chicken (and our supermarket doesn’t sell free-range pieces other than drumsticks), so we used skinless thighs. If you are doing this, I would recommend taking the chicken out after the initial cooking period so that you have the time to develop the sauce in the way it needs to be developed. Then simply toss the chicken pieces back in for the final 10 mins or so.

Anyways, here is the recipe. It will serve 4 people easily with leftovers dependent on appetites.

What you need

For the paste:
  • 8 red birds eye chillis, split & de-seeded. We like chilli so leave the seeds in a few of these.
  • 3 shallots, sometimes called French shallots. If you can’t get them, use red onions – 1 large one should be enough
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2.5cm each ginger, galangal, and turmeric (peeled & sliced). Galangal is similar to ginger, yet tastes very different.
  • 5 candlenuts (These are hard to source in Australia, but macadamias are a good substitute. They taste like a combination between a mac and a brazil nut)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (the white part)
  • 1 tsp belacan*

Smash this all with your mortar and pestle, or whack it into a food processor and whizz until it is a smooth paste.

You’ll also need:
  • 1 whole chicken jointed (or about 1.5kgs chicken pieces) – we prefer free range chooks that have clucked and scratched their way through their (short) lives.
  • 1 tbsp oil – we use rice bran or coconut oil
  • 5 eschalots (sliced)
  • 400ml can coconut cream
  • Fish sauce to taste
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded, to serve (optional)
  • Coriander to serve (optional)

Putting it all together:

  • Heat the oil in a large frypan or camp oven and fry the paste over medium heat until it is brown and fragrant. This will take about 5 minutes, but trust me, you’ll know.
  • Add the shallots and chicken pieces and coat in the paste before frying for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the coconut cream, 100ml water, and cover the pan with a lid. Bring it up to a boil before reducing to a simmer for 20 minutes. (If you’re cooking it on a stovetop you might not need the extra water).
  • Uncover and simmer for another 5-10minutes – or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced to a dunkable gravy.
  • Add fish sauce to taste, stir in the lime juice and scatter with kaffir lime leaves and (if using) coriander to serve.

Herby Cheese Dip

One of the highlights of any stay in the great outdoors – regardless of whether you’re in a van, a tent, or a cabin somewhere – is what us Clancys call cocktail hour. It’s that hour (or so) in the late afternoon – maybe as the sun is setting, maybe before you’re thinking about dinner, maybe while you’re thinking about dinner – when the beer comes out and the wine is opened. You sit around and have a drink, something to eat, and wonder what everyone else who isn’t as lucky as you to be where you are is doing.

Even though there are no cocktails as such, and even though it can stretch for much longer than an hour, we call it the cocktail hour.

This cheesy dip is a good one for cocktail hour. It doesn’t need a blender or any fancy equipment – just a bowl and a spoon – and can be whisked together quickly. It is, however, best if you let the flavours develop a tad.

We first tried it when we were road-tripping through the countryside in France earlier this year, although it’s got a far posher French name than herby cheese dip. Over there they serve it on boiled potatoes as a starter course with some salad, but we like it on toasted baguette.

What you need

  • 250g cottage cheese. Choose the full-fat version.
  • 50ml creme fraiche – that’s about 1/4 of the tub. Use the rest in a mushroom sauce for your steaks…yum.  You can also use non-sweetened greek style yoghurt or sour cream if you like.
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp chives, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp continental parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do with it

  • Place the cottage cheese and creme fraiche in a bowl and mix together.
  • Whisk in the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper
  • Stir through the shallot, chives and parsley.
  • Cover with cling film and pop it in the fridge for an hour