March 23, 2014

Breakfast at Home: Savoury Breakfast Polenta

This post barely qualifies as a recipe - it's more of a serving suggestion. Remember the Orange Breakfast Polenta from last August? I've been wanting to do a savoury version, and sausage with egg seemed the perfect solution.

At it's simplest, the recipe is this: Make up your favourite soft polenta recipe, top with crumbled sausage and a poached (or fried, basted, or steamed) egg - or two, ideally cooked soft or medium-soft. Season according to preference - hot sauce, fresh herbs, black pepper, really, there's a lot of options. You could even dust a little parmesan over the top, although it's not strictly speaking necessary. I should note that it's easier to make if you are starting with loose sausage meat, rather than the kind pressed into casings. If you can only get the kind in casings, slit them open to remove the meat before you get started - there's a bit too much going on at once to muck about trying to squeeze sausages out of their skins while preparing the polenta and/or eggs.

For a vegetarian or vegan version, you would need a veggie ground sausage, of course, or perhaps avoid the processed option with a sauteed mixture of seasoned mushrooms, walnuts and brown lentils (and maybe a bit of green onion), plus whatever tweaks you prefer to remove the dairy from the polenta (remove entirely, or replace with non-sweet almond milk or soy milk, or even pureed silken tofu). Egg or not, depending on which way you roll.

For the traditional version, break open your soft-cooked eggs so that the yolk escapes into the rest of the dish. Each bite brings you a mouthful of hot, creamy polenta, savoury sausage, and a bit of soft egg yolk. Your bowl will be empty, and your tummy full, in no time.

March 16, 2014

Hot, Sweet, & Sour Eggplant

This is fantastic hot or room-temperature, and just as good the next day. I use bulbous dark purple eggplants, as those are the ones available to me, but you could also use the longer, light purple Chinese varieties.

The combination of vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and sambal oelek give it that classic hot, sour, salty, sweet harmony of flavours that make you want to eat the whole pan at once. The texture of the eggplant becomes meltingly soft, just firm enough to maintain its shape, and is a nice counterpoint to a classic stir fry. If you like, thinly slice some garlic and add it along with the chiles.

Hot, Sweet, & Sour Eggplant

March 09, 2014

Vietnamese-inspired Lemongrass Pork Meatballs

What do you do when you have a surplus of lemongrass? Well, you could make meatballs, of course.

Living in this small city in Germany, access to Asian cuisines is rather limited, and often quite different from my previous experience of those cuisines in Vancouver. There are some tasty options, but there are also some notable absences, and much less variety than I've been accustomed to. I've taken on the challenge of making some of the things that I miss from Vancouver, and my list grows bigger every day.

That being said, I don't believe this to be any kind of authentic Vietnamese dish; rather, it is me playing with the flavours of Vietnamese cuisine and having fun while I do it. If you are looking for the springy sort of meatballs that one gets in Phó, you'll need to look elsewhere, as these are more in the Italian meatball school of texture (if not flavour). But if you want a tasty Vietnamese-inspired meatball treat - lordy, check these out! Bursting with flavour.

As I slowly build up my pantry, each new ingredient opens another door to new items to cook. My latest ingredient is fish sauce - essential for Vietnamese and Thai cooking. Because my fridge is a tiny German bar-sized fridge, shelf space for bottles is at an absolute premium, so I looked for the smallest bottle of fish sauce that I could find. That turned out to be a brand that also has red chiles in it. At first I balked - I tend to stick to the more neutral versions of basic ingredients, especially for cuisines outside my own - but as I turned it over in my head, I realized that I never use fish sauce without also adding chiles, so it was probably going to be okay. And it was. There's something about the chiles that actually takes the edge of the odour of the fish sauce, and that's kind of a relief, actually. It means that I get that all-important flavour that is so necessary in a lot of the dishes, without flinching my way through the adding of it.

Vietnamese-inspired Lemongrass Pork Meatballs