Normandie Kitchen

Shared food in a share house

Tag: simple

Watermelon, mint and feta salad

It’s a truth generally acknowledged, that any fruit is improved with chili, salt and lime juice. Whether you’re eating green mango and cucumber in Thailand, or papaya and pineapple in Los Angeles, that trinity of seasonings brings out sweetness and flavour from the fruit. This salad is a hybrid of that ubiquitous summer street vendor fruit, with Egyptian watermelon and feta salad, and made a bit heartier with a few North African favours. It’s pretty much a recipe without a recipe, so tweak it as you see fit, on a hot summer day when you don’t feel like cooking.

watermelon feta and cumin salad

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Chili oil (hong you)

Chinese red oil (红油, or the equivalent, Japanese raiyu らい油) is a critical ingredient in any number of Sichuanese dishes, including sesame noodles, or husband-wife boiled beef slices. It’s great with black vinegar, as a dumpling sauce. And it’s versatile enough to use with other kinds of cuisine as a spicy condiment. It’s a beautiful ruby red color, and has a fantastic toasty aroma. You can buy it, if you like, but it’s ridiculously simple to make. It might look intimidatingly fiery, but the flavour is a mellow, slow heat (even if you use spicy chili flakes).
Brad, Ulli
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Okra with tomatoes and vinegar

This is one of the best ways to eat okra. The okra binds the oil and tomato together into a luscious, slippery stew. You can use fresh, or frozen okra. You can cut the okra into rings, or just slice them into halves down the middle. Typical of Portuguese influenced cooking, this Angolan recipe has a little vinegar in it. It’s wonderful as-is, for a veggie main, or side dish. You can also add a whole, cut up chicken and turn it into a hearty meal (like a bare-bones muambha de gallina).okra_tomato


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Tabouli (or tabbouleh) is one of the quickest, most versatile salads you can make, and is based on a few simple ingredients. It’s a visceral pleasure to prepare, because your fingers and hands will end up covered in fragrant parsley, mint, lemon and olive oil before you’re done. The process of chopping, mixing, and smelling (and tasting) is almost more satisying the serving the final salad. It can be served as a bright summer salad on its own, or as an accompaniment to grilled meat and kebab, almost like chimichurri. It can be made with couscous or bulgur; grain free; or you can substitute in quinoa, or even white beans or lentils. Just make sure to use plenty of mint, lemon, and olive oil.


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Roasting bones for stock

Flavourful brown stock, usually made with beef, veal, lamb, or turkey bones is one of the fundamentals of home cooking. It takes a little time, but not much effort. And roasted bone stock adds an immense amount of flavour — as an ingredient, or on its own, as a soup. Stock keeps well in the fridge, for about a week; or you can freeze little aliquots of it, and add it as needed.

Homemade brown stock is much better than almost anything you can buy in the store (some of which is offensively bland). And making your own is a great way to use every scrap of food. Never throw bones away! Keep them (freeze them) and make stock.


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Bean-sprout salad

Salads of blanched bean sprouts with sesame are very common side dishes in Japanese (called moyashi no goma ae) and Korean food (called sukju namul). This salad is extremely simple to make, versatile, and works well with almost any combination of Chinese, Korean or Japanese food. In particular, the most simple version works as a counterbalance to strong and spicy Korean or Chinese dishes. The soft nuttiness of sesame, and the gentle crunch of blanched bean sprouts work well together.

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Pork and mustard greens (aka Wendy soup)

Wendy soup (or canh cải chua) is one of the simplest, most delicious soups you can make in winter. It’s pretty much nothing more than cải chua (fermented mustard greens), and soup-cut pork ribs. The bones make a flavourful stock, the pickles balance the richness, and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. As you can tell from the name, Wendy grew up eating it, and introduced it to the Normandie house. It’s in pretty heavy rotation, when the days get short. In this version, we take advantage of something that’s usually a negative — unripe, green tomatoes are common in winter, and are perfect in this soup.  Otherwise, daikon is more traditional.

Canh Cải Chua

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Red-braised pork belly

We’re only allowed to make braised pork belly twice a year. After all, you can only fly so close to the sun, before you fall to earth. It’s glorious. Chunks of unctuous meat layered with tender fat, simmering in a sweet-and-savoury-sauce, until they come to sticky, slippery, soft perfection; bathed in a “sauce” of glistening oil. pork_belly

Ulli and Thomas
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Sesame sauce noodles

This versatile recipe might sound like an absurd, five-year-old’s invention — spaghetti with peanut butter. But you can make this remixed Sichuan dish with little more than those two ingredients. In Chinese, the original is called cold noodles with chicken slivers (雞絲涼麵), and, accordingly, it’s usually made with chicken. But if you’re happy to bastardise it, this recipe works with whatever happens to be in the fridge (I love cucumber, eggs, and tomato; but leftover chicken, celery, bean sprouts, tofu or mushrooms would work). Infinitely flexible, infinitely delicous, this is a staple meal, for Brad, Wendy, and Joyce. Thomas suspects it might be the perfect, post-zombie apocalypse dinner. Master it now, before the walking dead appear.

chicken sliver noodles

Brad, Wendy, Joyce

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