Monday, 25 May 2009

The end is in sight...

After 15 years, in three different corners of the country, I am now 3 days away from finishing my education. Give or take, that's 3,750 days of schooling, approximately 22,500 different lessons (can this be right?), 7,500 school dinners (only one of which I can actually recall ralphing, though I'm sure there were more), and a few pieces of paper with various letters on them denoting generally underwhelming grades. And I still feel pretty ignorant. This might be because I was more interested in playing cricket or going to the pub than studying, or that I was so easily seduced by the work-shy notion that grades were meaningless, or because I am prattling on about poor work ethic when I ought to be revising for two exams tomorrow - I'm not really sure which.

Whatever the reason, without wanting to drift too close to cliche (though I fear that is inevitable), you never really stop learning. I learned a great deal at cookery school, but nothing compared to what I have picked up since then. Every split custard or mayonnaise, every loaf of over-risen bread, every poorly-executed sorbet, every piece of overcooked fish - they have all taught me something. Life is, after all, one big lesson, man, and the world is one big mutha-effin kitchen.

Unfortunately for me, at least as far as Italian grammar goes, I never quite started learning, so the last few weeks have been a semi-frantic rush to try and get through tomorrow without humiliating myself too much, hence lack of postage. The nice thing about working hard is that you feel you can treat yourself at the end of the day - nothing fancy, but it's lovely to be able to put the books to one side for an hour or two and get cooking. What follow are a couple of the things we've eaten lately.

Thai green prawn curry

You can certainly use jarred curry paste, but the flavour is incomparable to what you get if you make it yourself...

Serves 4

For the curry paste
A big handful of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 green chillies, seeds in
1 stalk lemongrass, outer layer removed
A few Kaffir lime leaves (you can find them in big supermarkets)
A thumb of ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
For the rest of the curry
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
1 aubergine, roughly diced
1 tin coconut milk
200ml fish stock
200g raw prawns

Coriander to serve

Make the curry paste by blending the ingredients together.

Heat some oil in a saucepan or wok and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and stir over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until soft. Whack up the heat and add the paste. Endeavour not to choke on the fumes that kick up and keep the stuff moving for a minute or so before adding aubergine, coconut milk and stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the aubergine is cooked.

Add the prawns and simmer for a further two minutes. Serve immediately with some chopped coriander and rice.

Lamb kebabs with tomato and mint salad

Serves 4

One shoulder of lamb, bone removed and diced into 2 inch chunks
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil

A good handful of tomatoes
Good olive oil
A handful of fresh mint
Salt, pepper and sugar

Mix spices, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil and toss through the lamb with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for as long as possible.

Prod the pieces of lamb onto skewers, cover and leave out of the fridge for a decent hour.

Preheat the oven to 230C, and stick the lamb kebabs in for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes into hearty and uneven sized chunks. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, toss through some good olive oil and shredded mint and serve with the lamb kebabs and some couscous.

1 comment:

  1. Hurrah to finishing school! 12 years of schooling was quite enough for me.

    Shrimp paste and galangal gives a really nice depth of flavour to green curries, although they're not always easy to find.