I love it when a recipe comes together, and as I do have a tendency to keep going back to my old favourites, that doesn’t happen as often as I would like. Last week I made a Vietnamese Pho (noodle soup) for the first time, and it was a fantastically successful experiment, so I repeat the recipe below for anyone who wants to give it a try. It’s healthy, nutritious, and very filling.
Vietnamese chicken pho
Boil a small free range chicken in a large saucepan which is covered in water and includes the following spices: star anise, 10 or so black peppercorns, a stalk of lemongrass, an onion, a chicken oxo cube, 2 garlic cloves, a tablespoon of fish sauce, a pinch of dried chilli flakes and a small piece of ginger (I actually used lazy ginger which was not ideal as it floated to the top of the pan and stank out the kitchen instead of flavouring the broth). My chicken took one hour simmering over a medium heat until the meat was falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the broth and if the flavour of the broth is not intense enough, reduce it by around one third by boiling hard (remember to skim off the scum first).
I then removed the spices and left the stock until the next day (where it had satisfyingly turned to jelly!) to use for the pho, as follows: lay cooked rice noodles in the bottom of the bowl and add some of the poached chicken (I used the breast meat only for this). Cover with the heated broth and serve with beansprouts, coriander, basil, mint, sliced red chilli, lime wedges, sliced spring onions and more fish sauce – each person can add these condiments according to taste.
Pea, leek and ham soup
As I was feeling all domestic-goddessy, I also boiled a bacon collar for a gammon, mash and parsley sauce dinner on Sunday. I re-used the ham stock to make soup: after removing the bacon collar I simply added 2 chopped leeks and a large bowl of frozen peas to the stock (along with the onion which had already cooked with the ham, but I removed the carrots and served them with the dinner). Once softened, I blitzed the soup in a blender – it makes a thin but hearty soup, and the flavour from the ham makes it extra tasty.
Chicken and ham pie
Having leftovers from both the boiled chicken (leg and wing meat) and boiled ham, plus some parsley sauce from my Sunday dinner, I mixed the three together to make a very tasty pie filling for Wednesday night (which in itself made 4 meals). I just made the pie using a block of frozen shortcrust pastry.
Thai curry paste
And of course I still had some leftover lime, lemongrass, coriander, chilli and spring onions, so I blitzed those all together with some fish sauce and garlic to make a thai green curry paste. I dry fried that in a saucepan until I could smell the spices cooking, and then added a tin of coconut milk to the pan. I let that cook so the flavours could infuse for 10 minutes or so, and then added the leftover beansprouts from the pho along with some shredded cabbage and a pack of raw tiger prawns. Hey presto – prawn thai green curry. Turns out my green chillis were not particularly strong, so it wasn’t as spicy as I would have liked, but I’ll definitely be making up a batch to freeze for quick dinners in future.
So a week of not only healthy dinners, but also a satisfying use of leftovers! I have decided that I will boil a chicken a couple of times a month – one time for pho and the other time for freezer stock, using the meat for healthy packed lunches (vietnamese rice noodle salads – recipe to follow next time). I’ll also boil a gammon each month as that will allow me to make a stock of soups for the freezer as well. It’s inspired me to get more organised and make more things to freeze for quick lunches / dinners, and I’ll talk about that more in my next blog as well.