Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thai Shrimp Soup with Ginger and Coconut

Before I moved to England my exposure to good southeast Asian food had been woefully inadequate.  The Japanese and Thai restaurants that I visited around the UK made up for lost time, and here in Australia this type of cuisine is even more abundant.  The balance of flavors achieved by combining salty, spicy, sweet, and vinegary components is now something I really enjoy.  Our access to fresh seafood is also a catalyst for making southeast Asian-inspired meals on a weekly basis.
Southern Spoon Blog: Thai Shrimp Soup with Ginger and Coconut
spicy red thai curry shrimp soup with ginger and coconut milk
This soup combines the strong flavors of fresh ginger and spicy red thai curry paste with a mild coconut milk.  Lime juice adds that perfect vinegary touch, and the noodles make it a filling dinner option.  You could easily substitute broken up fillets of fresh fish or even cooked rotisserie chicken for the shrimp, and also cooked white or brown rice for the noodles.  If you don't have fish sauce, substitute a tablespoon of soy sauce instead.

Requiring only one pot (and therefore minimal clean-up), this soup is perfect for a quick weeknight meal.  I made some when we had a friend from out of town dine with us a couple of weeks ago, serving it family style from a large soup tureen (heated in the oven before serving to keep the soup warm).  Everyone helped themselves to seconds, and it matched beautifully with a light pinot noir.  Enjoy!

Thai Shrimp Soup with Ginger and Coconut
Serves 4

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
12 oz flat rice noodles
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, very finely diced
1 cup fresh green beans, washed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste (to taste)
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup fresh baby spinach, washed
2 cups (1 lb) large, peeled shrimp (fresh, or thawed if frozen)
2-4 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil (to taste)
juice from half a lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Green onion strips and additional lime wedges to garnish (optional)

In a large pot on medium-high heat, bring the chicken (or vegetable) broth, noodles, mushrooms, bell pepper, green beans, green onions, ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce, and red curry paste to a low boil.  Reduce heat to low-medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Carefully pour in the coconut milk and add the spinach and peeled shrimp.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until shrimp are pink.  Remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil and lime juice.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with long, thin curls of green onion and a lime wedge.  Serve hot.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Almond Honey Pear Spiced Oatmeal

Twice in the past two weeks I've had oatmeal (aka porridge) as a non-breakfast meal.  I made pumpkin and pecan spiced oatmeal for an easy Sunday dinner (after over-indulging on high tea at the Queen Victoria Building tea rooms--see blurry pic below--a beautiful treat from my sister-in-law and her man when they came to visit), and I made today's recipe for a late lunch this weekend.
Southern Spoon Blog: high tea at the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney
perfect high tea at the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney
I never leave myself enough time to make oatmeal in the mornings, going instead for cold milk and cereal (loving Oatbrits right now), or vegemite and avocado spread on multigrain toast.  But whenever I make a hearty oatmeal for a quick weekend lunch or dinner, I always save some for breakfast the next morning--then kick myself for not making it my first meal of the day more often.  This almond-honey-pear-spiced oatmeal, made with water, a little coconut milk, and served with an additional dash of coconut milk, is truly delicious, and gluten-free, diary-free, and (almost) vegan (use rice bran syrup in place of honey for vegan).  It tastes just like Autumn, and fills you up good.  
Southern Spoon blog: almond honey pear spiced oatmeal
apples or pears, spices, raisins and currants, almonds, and honey
Make sure to prepare the oatmeal with water first, adding the coconut milk only at the end so that it doesn't heat too much and make the oatmeal super-sticky.  I prepared mine with an electric stovetop, if you're cooking with gas use a medium gas heat and watch the mixture carefully.  
Southern Spoon blog: almond honey pear spiced oatmeal
autumn in a bowl: almond honey pear spiced oatmeal with coconut milk
The pictures show a batch made with diced apples because my pears weren't quite ripe enough, but pears are my favorite addition for their soft texture.  I used a combination of raisins and currants, but any dried fruit will do (cranberries, chopped dried apricots, etc, just make sure they're preservative free).  For another Autumn-inspired version, add a couple tablespoons of baked and mashed pumpkin or sweet potato.  Serve with an extra dash of coconut milk and a little drizzle of honey.

Almond Honey Pear Spiced Oatmeal
two lady-like servings, or one man-sized serving

1/2 cup rolled oats (make sure they're gluten-free if cooking g-f)
1 cup water
half a peeled pear (or apple)
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raisins and/or currants
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
good dash of ground ginger
dash of allspice
little pinch of nutmeg
pink of freshly ground sea salt
1/4 cup coconut milk, divided (can use regular or light coconut milk)
1-2 teaspoons honey, to taste (plus another drizzle to serve)

Please the oats and the water in a small saucepan, turn the heat to medium-high.  Dice the pear and coursely chop the almonds.  Add the pear, almonds, raisins/currants, and spices (including salt) to the oatmeal.  

Heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Keep an eye on the mixture, and as soon as it starts to bubble turn the heat down to low.  Add most of the coconut milk, reserving about a tablespoon.  Stir for another minute, then remove from the heat.  Stir in 1-2 teaspoons honey, to taste.  

Serve hot, with the remaining coconut milk and a little additional honey drizzled on top.