I’m almost certainly flattering myself, but I’d like to think someone out there may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while (hi mum!). I very much doubt that anyone has missed my ramblings, but I, my friends, have very much missed posting. Unfortunately, as this is a ‘let it all hang out’ blog, I am presented with a dilemma when it comes to things that I’m not yet at liberty to divulge. The last two weeks have been exceptionally busy and, unusually for me, secretive. I’m planning a hen do for one of my bestest friends, which naturally I cannot talk about until after the event and there’s been a couple of other exciting developments that it wouldn’t be overly professional to shout about from the rooftops, no matter how much I may want to. There’s also the small matter of a non-disclosure agreement… Hey ho!
A week like this requires good, healthy and nourishing food. Also, I had to defrost the freezer and I thought I might as well use up some of the odds and sods I had stashed in there. So here’s my not-at-all-authentic take on that Vietnamese staple, Pho. The list of ingredients will make this dish sound complicated, but it really isn’t. It’s mostly a matter of bunging it all in.
For the broth:
1 chicken carcass / any stock bones you have lying in wait
1 cinnamon stick
1 onion, quartered
2 red chillis, snapped in half
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 stick lemongrass, bruised
1 inch ginger, peeled
1 x 400g pack rice noodles
Pop all the ingredients in a casserole. Cover with approx. 2.5 litres water and bring to a simmer. Leave to simmer away for approx 2 hours, then allow to cool, ideally overnight. Skim any fat off the top, then strain. You should be left with a clear, brown liquid. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the pack (boil for five minutes, in my case), and add to the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle over the broth and serve with an assortment of fresh herbs and veg, for guests to help themselves. The idea is that diners add the veg and herbs to their broth at the table for maximum freshness and crunch.
To serve at table (a handful per person):
Sliced chestnut mushrooms
Thai basil (or tarragon if you can’t get any
Spring onions, sliced
Assemble on a platter, serve at table for guests to help themselves.
For the chicken skewers with oriental pesto:
Chicken breast, chopped into chunks
A handful of Thai basil or tarragon
A handful of coriander (stalks and all)
A couple of mint leaves (don’t bother if you haven’t got a plant to hand)
1 red chilli, stalk and seeds removed
2 garlic cloves
A good glug sesame oil
A good glug nam pla (fish sauce)
Salt and pepper
Half an inch fresh ginger (peeled)
A squeeze of lime
Put everything but the chicken in a food processor. whiz to a paste. Thread the chicken onto wooden skewers (note, it’s an idea to soak these, you’ll note I didn’t bother and therefore burnt the ends), spoon over the pesto and grill for three-five minutes each side (depending how big your chicken chunks are and how tightly packed the skewers).