Holy moly - it's been ages since my last recipe post! November has always been my least favourite month for many reasons: Remembrance Day rehearsals (actually, I don't mind that, it's just that they take up a ton of time), report cards, and that weird in-between stretch of blahness that stretches from Thanksgiving (Canadian) through Christmas. There's just nothing to celebrate about November. The leaves have fallen, the sky is dark in the morning when you leave for work AND when you get home, and there's no snow to lighten the whole place up.
Which is what makes warming, vibrant recipes like this one so important. It's easy to subsist on soothing comforting food throughout November - wrapped in a blanket of polenta, smothered with tomato sauce. But, it's important, in my oh-so-humble opinion to mix together the comfort with something zingy and exciting.
Laksa (that's a spicy, coconut based curry soup) is where it's at.
This was one of those meals that started off one way and then ended up very differently. I'd intended to make pork burgers. And then I'd changed that to pork lettuce wraps. But I really, really wanted some noodles (there are rice noodles buried under that soup) and so this recipe ended up being the winner.
It's a variation of a Nigel Slater recipe I've been thinking about making for a couple of years now, but never got around to. Thanks to a pie pumpkin I've had sitting in the corner of my kitchen (bought with grand intentions that have long been forgotten), it was finally possible!
Pork, Pumpkin and Tomato Laksa
(adapted from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries)
½ lb peeled and seeded pumpkin (squash would be equally at home here)
1 lb lean ground pork
4 cloves garlic
3 hot peppers, seeded if you want a milder laksa
1" thumb of ginger, grated
1 bunch cilantro, both leaves and stems washed
5 lime leaves
zest of one lemon
1 tbsp canola oil (approx)
4 tomatoes, cored and cut into hunks (I got 16 from each tomato)
1 14oz can light coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 oz (125 grams) rice vermicelli
small palmful mint leaves, chopped
¼ cup cashews, coarsely chopped
1. Over a pot of boiling water, steam pumpkin for about 12 minutes, or until flesh is almost tender. Set aside
2. While the pumpkin is steaming, place garlic, ginger and peppers into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, scraping down sides as necessary. Add in half of the cilantro, both leaves and stems, lime leaves and lemon zest. Pulse again, adding a little canola oil to bring mixture together into a paste. Set aside.
3. In a large wok over high heat, cook pork until almost browned, stir in spice paste and stir fry for 1 minute. Add in tomatoes, pumpkin, coconut milk and chicken stock and cook for 7 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to fall apart.
4. While laksa is in the last few minutes of cooking, cook rice vermicelli according to package directions.
5. Add lemon juice and fish sauce to laksa and let cook 2-3 minutes further.
6. To serve, divide rice noodles between bowls. Ladle laksa broth over noodles and top with extra cilantro leaves, mint leaves and chopped cashews. Eat with chopsticks and a spoon!
You know what else depresses me about November? The disappearance of natural light. Bah humbug.