My grandmother used to make vermicelli soup on Mondays- she actually had a weekly menu where Mondays were soups, Tuesdays were peas, rice and some meat, Wednesdays offered some sort of pie and so on. I always kind of admired the whole ‘menu’ idea when I was growing up and later came to see the significance of it; being a wife and mother is hard work and I am all for changing things up so that life can be just a bit more manageable. I think my grandmother was on to something!
This soup signifies comfort food for me. It’s not rich or fattening, it’s not fried, breaded or cheesy and creamy…but it reminds me of my grandmother. It reminds me of her house- the smells, the dust, the way she would serve us this with soft white bread, buttered to exquisite perfection, the translucent white plastic bowls with little small stubs for ‘feet’ that she’d serve us this in. I miss my grandmother- her wisdom, her quietude, the way she did everything ‘just so’. Bless her, she was a lovely woman.
Her food was always superbly cooked, just enough of everything good. Never too salty or spicy and with just the right amount of sugary sweetness. This soup was no exception. I always remember being excited when she told us lunch was vermicelli soup- the long thin noodles bathed in a clear broth with bits of floating bubbles (later I found out these were bits of salt-butter micelles) and soft perfectly cooked potatoes. I don’t really remember there being any meat, but after making this soup I now know why! The meat simply disappears into the background- a stock cooked for hours on end proves too much for the meat’s survival!
I used chicken- just like my grandmother did-and made a beautifully perfumed chicken stock, but if you have a good, high quality store-bought chicken stock that’s also fine. I also made a few adjustments to her original vermicelli soup recipe- adding carrots and pasta shells for my little one’s enjoyment.
What’s great about this soup is that the broth provides a nice unobtrusive milieu to which anything can be added. You can use different types of meat stock/meat- beef would be lovely- and add vegetables to your heart’s content- cabbage would be great.
For me, I wanted to try to come up with a vermicelli soup recipe similar to my grandmother’s. I wanted to stay as true to her delicious light recipe as possible. Since I never got a chance to ask her for her original recipe I had to come up with one that I felt would come close- golden ray salted butter and all. I think I did a pretty good job… my parents agreed!
Chinese choy sum (choi sum) is one of my favorite greens; every time we dine at a Chinese restaurant it is seldom left out. Similar in taste to pak choy (bok choy), this ‘flowering cabbage’ has slightly bitter undertones which are easily complemented by garlic and ginger. Although I stir-fried mine, you can also steam choy sum or have it soups- which makes it particularly delectable.
Lap chong (lap cheong )-a sweet and savory Chinese sausage can only be described as ambrosial! I am sure to always have some stocked since it’s prep time is so short and it makes any plain rice come to life when you cook them together…plus, it my husband’s favorite!
I purchased the lap chong sausages from Sincere’s on Cipero Street here in San Fernando and the choy sum from Hilo supermarket. I always feel like I’ve won the lotto when I see freshly stocked choy sum in the produce section of Hilo; if you can’t get a hold of fresh choy sum, pak choy can easily be substituted.
Of course when preparing and indulging in delicious Chinese food a great accompaniment is oolong tea- today was no exception. My husband purchased this wonderfully aromatic monkey-picked oolong from Teavana (yes, the tea is actually picked by monkeys trained to do just that!).
This meal is a simple, quick one which has become one of my ‘turn to when I need something fast and easy’ meals. It’s not surprising that this meal is one of the favorites in our house- a testament to simple, unpretentious food being the best.
I am sure that it will become one your favorites just as quickly as it has become one of mine!
1 package choy sum, washed thoroughly, thick stems removed
4 lap cheong sausage links, sliced about 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal cross-section
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger root
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice (or any other white rice)
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
chives, finely chopped for garnish
bring 1 1/2 cups of water with ~1 tsp of salt to a roaring boiladd 1 1/2 cups rice and return to boil
when the rice comes to a boil, lower heat to the lowest level your stove will allow
add whole lap cheong sausage links into rice & cover pot and let simmer for about 20 minutes
when rice is soft, remove sausages and let cool, then slice them
Choy sum, snow peas & lap cheong:
after the sausages are sliced, heat the oils in a non-stick pan or wok
quickly add the choy sum and snow peas and toss continuously while adding ginger and garlic
add in the sliced lap cheong sausages-vegetables are cooked when bright green and crunchy and choy sum begins to wilt
add soy sauce
sprinkle salt as needed and additional sesame if you desire
serve hot on a bed of rice and garnished with chopped chives
Suggestion~ Oolong/green/jasmine tea serves as a beautiful complement to this dish. Rice can be replaced by brown rice or noodles depending on your preference.
scroll down for the printable saltfish accra recipe
Today is an extra special day- it’s my father’s birthday!
Happy Birthday to a wonderful father and an inspirational mentor!
I decided to make him a very special treat today- one of his favorites- saltfish accras. My sibling hosted a decadent breakfast spread for him- eggs, bacon, sausages, homemade waffles and homemade hash-browns; I provided the accras as a little addition to all of the deliciousness!
Accras are the Caribbean’s answer to crab fritters; traditionally made from saltfish (salted pollock/cod) these golden brown, salty gems have earned their well deserved reputation of being delectable treats all across the Caribbean. I’ve had them and heard of them on different islands- many times by different names like saltfish patties and fish cakes- but what unifies them no matter the island is their great, unmistakable flavor.
These are by far one of my most favorite foods from the Caribbean region- fried golden parcels of savory richness- perfect as an accompaniment to any breakfast/brunch or as a standalone appetizer with a variety of dips. These saltfish accras can also be served as an alternative to a fish burger- fry bake providing the best ‘bread’ for these tasty treats- topped with a selection of condiments.
Today’s version of accra included shrimp- a wonderful, textural addition to any accra. Conventionally accras are made using saltfish, but many have perfected shrimp accras, (unsalted) fish accras and any other seafood combination. Unfortunately, I don’t know the history of accras and why they are traditionally made with saltfish (if anyone reading this knows the history of accras please do not hesitate to post it in the comments below!) but I can imagine Trinidad in the older days, friends liming and looking for something to nibble. I picture one friend offering to whip up something quick and having the cured saltfish on hand, some seasonings and flour and thus was born ‘the accra’. I like doing this- imagining the better, old days.
I’ve been thinking about plantains a lot these days- their sweet unique flavor, their bright yellow hues and their ability to make everything taste just a little bit better.I recently spoke about them in my last post entitled market goods 31/01/13 and if you haven’t read that post, you might want to take a little look around.
Plantains are one of the things I miss the most when I’m away from home. I don’t know why, maybe it has to do with the fact that my grandmother always cooked it. She loved to make fried ripe plantains with sada roti, plain white kiss bread or hops and pretty much any time we made fry bake or roast bake there would be the ubiquitous fried plantains!
So, today I got to thinking about incorporating them into my meal in a way other than the usual ‘on the side fried plantain’ type thing. What I came up with actually worked well and I must say that after ‘testing’ the dish on some family and friends, I’m happy to actually post the recipe. One thing to remember is that plantains have a very unique, particular flavor and if your guests don’t like the flavor, it cannot easily be masked, so you might want to consider substituting the plantains in this recipe for something else- try apples or pears.
This recipe can be served for lunch or dinner and is really quite mild in its elements. If you like the taste of ripe plantains, then this one would be sure to impress your guests. Green plantains cannot be used as a substitute since the sweetness in the plantain compote is all natural with no sweeteners added. The plantain compote can be compared to apple sauce which is a popular accompaniment to pork chops.
4 pork chops
1 Tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 Tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 Tsp plus 1 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cilantro
2 French thyme sprigs
Preheat oven at 450F. Season pork chops evenly with salt and black pepper on both sides. Combine 1 teaspoon olive oil, paprikas, thyme and cilantro and rub evenly on all sides. Leave to rest for at least an hour, covered with foil in the the fridge. In the meantime prepare the mashed potatoes and plantain compote (both below). After 1 hour, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan at high heat. Add sliced garlic cloves and cook until its edges become golden brown-do NOT burn. Add in pork chops and sear for 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat, reserve garlic juices left after cooking the pork chops. Place chops into oven for a further 5 minutes, when cooked place on a platter and cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes..
4 Large Idaho potatoes
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 cups whole milk
Peel potatoes and cut them into small chunks-boils faster! Add them to cold water with 1/2 Tbsp salt. Bring to a roaring boil. The potatoes are ready to be mashed when a fork can easily pierce them. Remove from heat, strain and use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in a clean bowl. While very hot, add butter and 1 cup whole milk. Continue mashing and combining ingredients adding the other cup of milk slowly. Set aside in a double boiler to keep potatoes hot while finishing up other dishes.
2 ripe plantains
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups water
Wash and peel plantains. Cut into thin 1/4 inch rounds- cross section- slices. Reserve 12 slices for garnish. With the remaining slices, place in water with cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a roaring boil. Lower heat and simmer until the plantains become very soft and can be blended. If the water is drying down, add more water in small amounts. When soft, removed from heat. Remove all cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks and place plantains in pan where the pork chops had been cooked, heat and pulse with hand blender until combined. Add water if necessary.
Fried plantain slices
1/2 Tbsp salted butter
salt for spinkling
12 Plantain slices
Heat butter in saute pan at medium heat. Place plantain pieces flat onto heated butter and cook on one side ~about 2 minutes. Turn and cook on other side lowering heat so as not to burn the plantains. Off heat and sprinkle with a small amount of salt to highlight the sweetness of the plantains.
Plate mashed potatoes with pork chop and compote either to the side or on top of the pork chop. Garnish with 3 fried plantain slices and fresh chopped parsley. Serve hot and enjoy!
Serving ~ 4 persons
Suggestions~ Serve hot with a delicious Caribbean cocktail- pina colada, margaritas or a banana smoothie!