Category Archives: Food

Vietnamese chicken noodle salad recipe


Vietnamese food is probably my favourite regional cuisine. I find it so fresh, green, healthy and also (a lot of the time) gluten free. Therefore the region’s salads or soups are a staple go-to in my kitchen.

I made this Vietnamese-style chicken noodle salad for everyone at work, it’s fairly quick to make in a big batch and also super filling and healthy. Sarah, a friend from uni (and super talented illustrator!) requested I share the recipe after I instagrammed this bad boy, so I thought i’d put it up here incase anyone else is interested.

I whipped this up for about 8-10 people, but I’ll give the recipe for 2 because I doubt anyone reading this wants to do it for 10! If you want to make it for more, just double everything per two people.

WHAT YOU NEED

For the chicken & marinade

2 x chicken breasts
A pinch of grated fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of Sriracha hot sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 x fresh lime squeezed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
A pinch of salt and pepper (to your taste)

For the salad

Green salad:
2 x Romaine lettuce
1 x cucumber
A bunch of spring onions
1 x fresh red chilli
1 x freshly squeezed lime
Colourful salad:
3 x carrots – grated with a julienne peeler
A handful of radishes, sliced

To serve

Rice noodles (you can buy these fresh from most supermarkets, or dried if you can’t find fresh ones – both are fine)
A bunch of fresh mint leaves – finely chopped
Fresh lime slices
Soy sauce – (Kikkoman is my favourite – they also do a gluten free one)
Sriracha hot sauce (for me there is no better chilli sauce than Sriracha!)

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Book review: Gut – Giulia Enders


gut

I noticed this book in the entrance display of Waterstones and as I’ve been going through the ~ motions ~ with my own digestive system for the past couple of months, naturally I picked it up.

It said it was an international bestseller – I know, an international bestseller about the digestive system!? It must be at least funny, if not educational I thought.

I’ve read before that the gut can have an effect on your emotional well being, and that the sayings ‘butterflies in my tummy’, ‘a gut feeling’, actually have some science behind them. However, I never understood too much about the subject, I just knew from personal experience that when I’m not having a great time mentally, my stomach issues are much worse.

I have also read that serotonin is mainly produced in our gut, which is an important chemical that controls our mood, I’ve always wondered what that meant – in terms of the connections it could mean are there.

There were a couple of things that really interested me in this book, from a perspective of mental illness and digestive issues so I’ll highlight a couple of the things I found most interesting. Moreover, I did find the whole book really charmingly written, I liked the way she wrote it like lots of little stories. I learned a lot about the whole of our digestive system, and it wasn’t boring! Here are a couple of main points that stuck out to me…

Why your tummy doesn’t like stress

When you are stressed, your brain wants to solve the ‘problem’. To do this it needs to borrow energy from our gut. The gut is informed via nerves that we are stressed, and so it decides to save energy on digestion to help with the stress our brain is going through. When this happens it alters the way our gut actually works temporarily. Enders explains how this situation is not ‘designed for long term use’. If our brains think we are in an emergency situation all the time it uses the gut to ‘fund’ this. She goes on to tell us that when the gut has to forgo energy in ‘favour of our brain’ it’s own health suffers and therefore our own. This can cause the gut to become more sensitive in lots of ways – including intolerance to food and basically, poopy problems. It can also mean the ‘bad bacteria’ has more chance of taking over – which can cause illness for us. Even after long term periods of stress or mental illness, the gut can still be negatively effected. Sort of like a ‘pay back’. Which is why you might feel ill even after the initial stressful times you had.

Wheat just wants to survive being eaten by insects! A reason lots of people are intolerant or sensitive to gluten

When wheat is growing in the wild, just hanging out – it doesn’t want to be eaten by predators. It makes it’s seeds slightly poisonous so that insects don’t want to eat it, the gluten has the effect of inhibiting an important digestive enzyme which causes the grasshopper to have an tummy upset. That puts them off doing it again and again.

These seeds are what causes gluten intolerance or sensitivity in humans too. Gluten can pass into parts of our gut in a partially undigested state, Enders tells us. Basically, that means it can end up in places that our body doesn’t want or need it. Some peoples bodies react really badly to this and it causes damage, others find it causes a bit of trouble, and some people are not affected by it at all.

So in simplistic terms, that’s why gluten can be a pain in the butt for some of us, and seemingly fine for others. The book does go into the subject in more detail if you are interested to learn more.

Gut bacteria is a contributing factor to our mood

There have been lots of experiments on mice in terms of depression. A well used experiment involves making the mice swim. This is to see how long they will keep swimming until they give up and die (I know, quite sad). The mice that are less ‘depressive’ will swim for longer before they give up. Scientists test new anti-depressants in this way and it tends to show positive results if they work.

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The Great De Beauvoir Bake Off – Victoria sponge cake


strawberry
After watching the first episode of the new The Great British Bake Off, I felt an urgent need to make a cake. It seemed as though everybody else in Dalston did too, as the baking supplies isle in the giant Sainsbury’s was looking pretty empty!

As it’s been hot hot hot in London this week, I thought I’d go for a Victoria sponge cake. It feels quite British picnic to me; light, summery and the best season for fresh strawberries. In keeping with GBBO I referenced a Mary Berry recipe, but tweaked it a teeny bit. Here’s how you bake it!

What you need:

The Sponge
4 Eggs
225g self-raising flour
225g caster sugar
225g butter (soft – melt a bit otherwise it will be hard to mix)
2 teaspoons baking powder

The Filling
Strawberry jam
300ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon of caster sugar

To Finish
Icing sugar
Fresh strawberries, sliced

victoriasponge

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The Best Moussaka Ever – A recipe


mousakka
Moussaka is one of my favourite meals ever. I first tried it on Exmouth Market when I used to work nearby. There was this one stall who sold an incredible one for £5 with rice and salad. I think I ate it at least twice a week for months! Since then, I’ll always order moussaka if it’s on the menu. This was the first time I cooked it myself. I referenced a couple of different recipes and sort of picked the bits I thought would work well to make this one. It did turn out really well and bloody tasty so I thought I’d share!

Just a note… this is not a quick meal to make. It took me between 2-3 hours in total before we ate it!
This does make enough for 4-5 generous portions though so you could save it for another day. It’s a Sunday cooking adventure, if you will.

What you need:

For the delicious insides:
Olive oil
2 large aubergines, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
500g minced lamb
250g tomato passata
150ml red wine
Salt & pepper

Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

For the bechamel topping:
500ml whole milk
60g butter
60g plain flour
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
A sprinkle of nutmeg

Method:

1. Heat your oven to 180°c degrees, place your aubergines sliced into 0.5/1cm slices onto a baking tray with a bit of olive oil and salt over them. (You can pile them up, but make sure a tiny bit of oil is between each layer!). Bake for around 20-30 mins until soft and golden.

2. While the aubergine is cookin’, oil a large pan and cook your onion and garlic, season with the cinnamon and oregano. Add your lamb mince and cook it through making sure it’s brown. Once the lamb is cooked through add your passata and red wine, add a little of your parsley and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook for around 30 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

cooking

3. Go make yourself a cuppa while your meat base is cooking, then in the last 10 mins, make your bechamel sauce. Heat up your milk in a pan, but do not boil. Melt your butter in another pan and stir in your plain flour. Make sure you use a whisk! That’s my tip for making the perfect bechamel sauce, as it helps it stay smooth. Add the milk in little bits and whisk as you go along until it thickens and is smooth. Once all your milk is in, add your grated Parmesan and stir until smooth. Take off the heat, cool slightly, then add your beaten eggs. Whisk until smooth. Sprinkle in a bit of your nutmeg. If you’re a big nutmeg fan feel free to add a bit more, personally I find it a bit overpowering so didn’t put too much in!

4. Arrange a layer of your cooked aubergines in the bottom of a large baking dish, pour in your lamb mixture and then place some more aubergines on top. To finish, pour on your bechamel sauce. Place in the oven at 180°c  and cook for about 45 minutes until the top is brown.

Serve with white rice and a side of salad if you fancy. Tomatoes would go well too :)

Hopefully you’re as much of a fan of moussaka as me!