FOOD RECIPES F OR THOUGHT Recipes and growing tips inspired by the spicy dishes of Malaysia, one of the many exotic countries visited on Fred. Olsen’s 2015 Grand Voyage, the ‘Far East Explorer’. Feature and recipes by Deborah Stone Feature and recipes: Deborah Stone A touch of spice Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures – Malays, Chinese and southern Indians, seasoned with a dash of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialism. It’s a country known for its food and festivals, where booming cities of steel and glass skyscrapers contrast with traditional communities living in wooden stilt houses. There are idyllic white sand beaches and superb coral reefs, as well as pristine mountains and untouched rainforest, in this collection of territories with Kuala Lumpar as its capital. West Malaysia is at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula, bordered by Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), while over the South China Sea is East Malaysia in Borneo. But while the country is made up of diverse territories and islands they are all united by a colourful cuisine that is flavoured, among other things, by garlic and chillies. Delicately spiced curry is a mainstay of daily life, as is Malaysian Laksa – a noodle soup with added prawns, fish, chicken or whatever you fancy. Both Malaysian curry and Malaysian Laksa can be made from the same curry or laksa paste – a mix of garlic, chillies, ginger, coriander and other ingredients. Of course, you can buy laksa paste from specialist counters in many British supermarkets, but how much more satisfying to quickly whip some up yourself. It doesn’t take long with a food processor or even a pestle and mortar. Even more satisfying is using homegrown 50 www.fredolsencruises.com garlic and chillies – both of which can be sown over winter. Garlic bulbs can go straight into the ground right up until February (under a cloche), as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. If you live north of the Midlands it’s probably best to plant the bulbs into pots and keep them in a sheltered spot until early spring when you can plant out the seedlings. Buy specially-prepared, virus-free bulbs from your local garden centre and plant each clove separately. If you are planting straight into the ground the soil should be well-draining, so they won’t rot away. Plant them in a row, about 4 inches (10cm) apart, with the pointed tip of the clove just visible above the soil in a spot that will be sunny enough for them to ripen by next summer. Alternatively, plant them in small pots to give the roots plenty of room. Fill the containers with multipurpose compost, then push in a garlic clove so that all but the tip is covered. Don’t let the soil or compost around your garlic dry out, particularly from spring, when the new garlic head will begin to plump out ready to dig up in June, although you can leave them in until August. Make sure you choose a dry day to dig them up and, if you can, leave them out in the sun on a wire tray for a few days to get them super-dry. Chillies are even easier to grow, although you will have to wait until February to sow the seeds. This gives you plenty of time to decide whether you want to grow very hot chillies, such as fiery jalapenos, or milder ones, such as the prolific chilli pepper ‘Numex Twilight’. There are dozens to choose from. Fill a nine-inch (23cm) plastic pot with multi-purpose or seed compost and place seeds about an inch or a few centimetres apart, then add a sprinkling of compost so that the seeds are just covered but not deeply buried. This allows them to get enough light to germinate, which should take about a month on a sunny window sill. Once the seedlings have two true leaves as well as their original seed leaves, transplant them into individual small pots and in about May, when the frosts are over, switch them to a nine-inch pot or put three or four in a grow-bag. If you put them in individual pots you have the choice of keeping them inside until the weather is reliably mild at night. They should be ready to harvest from about July, and you can either pick them as you need them or leave them on the plant to mature until the autumn. This will intensify the flavour but reduce the number of chillies because the plant will stop flowering. Then, with a bit of help from your store cupboard spices, you are all ready to create delicious Malaysian dishes from scratch using home-grown produce. The secret ingredient for every truly tasty dish!
Closer Magazine Winter 2013-14
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