Food and Culture

This is a really great warm weather salad that’s fresh, filling, and packed with flavour. There’s a little Vietnamese place Dan and I like to go to in Minneapolis called Jasmine Deli which serves amazing phở, great bánh mì, as well as really excellent bún chay – a salad made with tofu or meat, rice noodles (usually vermicelli), lettuce, various crunchy raw vegetables, fresh herbs, and a moreishly flavourful sauce.

We decided to recreate the salad at home and it’s set to be a summer favourite. You could make it with chicken, pork, or beef instead of the grilled tofu that we made. In terms of veggies, we went with carrots, cucumber, and daikon radish, but bean sprouts are a common addition too and bell pepper would add a similar textural crunch. The sauce is wonderfully salty and full of flavour from the fish sauce and lime juice, but feel free to play with the ingredients there as well.

Bún Chay (Vietnamese Noodle Salad)


For the marinade

  • 1/2 stalk lemongrass, bulbous portion only, finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 dried red chili, minced
  • splash of water

For the salad

  • 7 ounces/ 200g dried vermicelli noodles
  • 1/2 pound extra firm tofu (or substitute chicken, pork, or beef)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 a head of romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1/2 cup daikon radish, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • Large handful of fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, chopped (to garnish)

For the sauce

  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed


  1. Press tofu between paper towels to drain excess water. Cut into 1-inch chunks.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Place tofu in marinade and let sit for half an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare noodles according to package instructions, cooking until white and tender but still firm. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, fluffing the noodles to separate the strands. Drain again completely. Set aside.
  4. Heat bbq and grill tofu until crispy and golden. Flip and cook the other side. (Alternatively, you could stir fry the tofu in a wok over high heat.)
  5. Shred lettuce set aside with cucumbers, carrots, and sliced daikon radish.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside.
  7. Divide the noodles between two bowls. Arrange greens and tofu on top and garnish with peanuts. Just before eating, drizzle with sauce to taste and toss.

Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam650

Cream tea is one of those quintessentially English things that people find so crushingly charming about the U.K. Many a visitor to our fair isles latches onto this tradition as a must-do activity. Places like The Ritz hotel offer scones in this fashion in intimidatingly fancy surrounds for scary prices. That whole thing is not my idea of a good time AT ALL. Too much pomp and circumstance when all I want is a good cuppa and a really good scone (and to not worry about slurping said cuppa or getting clotted cream on my chin).

Scones and Jam650

I much prefer little tearooms with lace tablecloths, doilies, bad wallpaper, worse carpet, and honest-to-goodness scones and tea. It’s relaxed, admittedly somewhat “quaint”, but there’s no formality whatsoever, just people of all ilks enjoying a pot of tea and a classic English scone.

Since I know my readership is made up of mostly Americans, followed by Brits and others, I think a little explanation is probably needed.

Scones Clotted Cream 650

Here’s the deal: American scones and English scones are very different. If you want some visual comparison. Here are some typically American scones. Round-shaped British scones can resemble North American biscuits in appearance, but scones are delicate, with a flaky texture and just a touch of sweetness, while biscuits are a richer, more buttery, decadent affair. Also, while scones are served as part of afternoon tea or as a sweet dessert, biscuits are served more as a bread, often with breakfast.

The standard scone recipe is pretty simple and combines flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, butter, and milk. Felicity Cloak wrote a wonderful piece on how to make the perfect scone which I read thoroughly before beginning this baking expedition. With such few and simple ingredients, I gave much thought to which raising agent would be best, choosing the best local butter for optimum flavour, and how to get the scones to rise evenly. Phew. We’re serious about our scones over here.

I have to say the result was lovely. Soft, fluffy little cakes with rich clotted cream and sweet, fruity jam – nothing could be better.

Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam
adapted from BBC Good Food and BBC Food


  • 225g/ 8oz plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 55g/ 2oz/ 4 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 25g/ 1oz caster (white) sugar
  • 150ml/ 5fl oz milk
  • really good jam, to serve
  • clotted cream, to serve*


  1. Heat your oven to 220C/425F. Grease a baking sheet and set aside. In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Working as quickly and lightly as possible with cold hands, rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  2. Next, stir in the sugar and then the milk until you have a soft but firm dough. Turn out dough onto a floured work surface and with floured hands, pat the dough into a circle about 1.5cm to 2cm thick and cut out the scones using a 5cm/2in cutter or a small glass jar. Place rounds on baking sheet and lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up.
  3. Brush the tops of the scones with milk. Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve with good jam and clotted cream. Makes 8-12 scones.

* With a 60% fat content, clotted cream is too thick to pour, but it’s not as thick as butter. You can find it at Lunds/Byerly’s in the Twin Cities or you can purchase it online. Certainly you could make it yourself but golly if I do not want to spend 8 hours tending to cream while it clots. At a pinch, you could substitute heavy whipping cream, whipped until thick and spreadable, or use crème fraîche. The real stuff costs a pretty penny but my god, it’s worth it.

root vegetable korma

January 9, 2012

Korma is a mildly spiced, richly flavoured, creamy curry. It’s also known as the curry for wimps but whilst rich and creamy, this version is not at all lacking in flavour and actually has a good kick to it from the chiles.

As you might be able to tell from these pictures I managed an epic kitchen fail in producing this, mis-reading my own measuring jug and added twice as much liquid than necessary to it. Idiot.

I find this to be especially amusing/frustrating after my blog post last week about following instinct and leaving behind recipes. What a plonker.

In any case, this was delicious, if more liquid-y than I’d like, and if you follow the instructions below, I think you’ll be in for a real treat. The spice-blend of green cardamom, cumin, coriander, chile powder, cinnamon, and turmeric is just right and the root vegetables work wonderfully – thankfully, since there’s an abundance of them around.

Of course, if you wanted to, you could swap some or all of the veggies for chicken and another way to do korma is with coconut milk, rather than cream. Either way, keep an eye on your measuring jug and you’ll be golden.

Root Vegetable Korma
adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater


  •  2 medium onions, minced
  • 1 fat, thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated coarsely
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • a mixture of root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, rutabaga (swede), and Jerusalem artichokes totaling 2.5lbs
  • 2/3 cup (100g) cashews
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chile powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 small green chiles, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup (150ml) light or heavy cream
  • 2/3 (150g) thick plain yoghurt
  • cilantro, chopped


  1. Coarsely chop half the cashews  and set the rest aside. Prepare the spices: open the cardamom pods with your nails and scrape out the seeds. Crush them into a gritty powder. Grind the cumin and coriander seeds into a fine powder.
  2. Heat the oil or butter into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and add the onions, stirring them occasionally, until they’re soft but not coloured. Add the grated ginger and sliced garlic and continue to cook over gentle heat for a couple of minutes. Next add the spices – cardamom, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chile powder, and the cinnamon stick. Continue cooking, stirring for a couple of minutes, until the fragrance of the spices rises from the pan, then add the root vegetables and the chopped cashews. Season with sliced chiles, salt and pepper.
  3. Stir in 3 cups (750ml) water, partially cover with a lid, and let simmer gently for 45-50 minutes, until the roots are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Toast the remaining cashews.
  4. Carefully add the cream and yoghurt to the curry, letting them heat through but not boil to avoid curdling. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if necessary. Scatter over toasted cashews and fresh, chopped cilantro to garnish. Serves four with rice or naan bread.