A whole new ball game.

I decided to be adventurous yesterday and push myself to the limits. This resulted in prawn balls.

If you remember, not long ago I tried my hand at various Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese (or if you prefer, Asian) dishes, which were generally a success. This time, I attempted to make prawn and pork balls on skewers to be cooked on the barbecue. This was pretty adventurous because 1) I am quite nervous about cooking prawns because I never know if they are still raw, 2) I had only ever eaten these at my Aunt’s barbecues and had no idea how they were made. After a few phone calls to my Grandma (an expert in cooking) and my Aunt (who has previously made and cooked prawn balls) and a little research on the internet, I set forth for my big experiment.

Ingredients:

20 king prawns

400g pork mince (the small box)

1 clove of garlic

1 chilli

1 green pepper

1 tsp of cornflower

pinch of salt

pepper for seasoning

So what next?

First you need to prepare the prawns. This is long and tedious, but must be done to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned. Assuming you have bought prawns that are headless, to begin with you need to de-shell the them. The next stage is to slice them right in the middle – I find it easiest to go from the top to the tail downwards. Inside you will find a string, the intestines, which can easily be pulled out from one end of the prawn. It is not life threatening if you decide not to do this, but it will taste gritty otherwise.

Once you have done this, slice them into small pieces. I slice and de-poo each prawn as I go, but do whatever is easiest for you. You may want to wash them after, but to be honest, they have been in a shell and should be fine.

Place the mushed up prawns in the food processor with all of the pork mince, a generous pinch of salt, 1 tsp of cornflower (to make it stickier), pepper (add as much or as little as you feel necessary), chopped up garlic and chilli. I tend to remove the seeds from the chilli, but if you are feeling particularly daring leave them in.

Chop your green pepper into small chunks and get your skewers ready. Roll the prawn and pork concoction into a medium sized ball on a flat surface using the palm of your hand. Make sure the prawn balls are not too big, as this will take longer to barbecue and be at risk of being undercooked. Then slot the balls onto skewers, with peppers in between; this may get tricky as time goes on as the mixture becomes stickier. I also found that they would fall off the skewers, in which case I would re-roll the ball and delicately slot them back in between the peppers.

Lastly, place them on the barbecue to cook. It is not necessary to cook them on a barbecue, you can also grill or fry them (obviously without the skewers for the latter). If you do decide to cook them on a barbecue, be wary that the prawns will be cooked quicker than the pork; it is best to place them on before the barbecue gets too hot, or perhaps as the last thing you cook.

All in all, my experiment was a success! It took a while to cook on the barbecue, probably because of my constant paranoia that they were underdone, but it was definitely worth the wait. They were very tasty and DH loved it.

Cooking up a storm.

Over the weekend, I have become quite the cook. Over the years DH and I have mastered British and Italian dishes to perfection; our dinners varying from stews to roasts to lasagnes. This weekend however, I decided to take it one step further and try my hand at the Chinese dishes I find so daunting. I am so used to visiting my Grandma’s house for my weekly Chinese fix, but now I am a mother, I need to learn the tricks of the trade myself, if I am to have my son familiar with his Chinese heritage. Hopefully if I start now, he will never know how unskilled his mother once was.

We started off with prawn crackers, how very stereotypical. This was not very experimental at all really – It involved heating up oil in a pan and dropping small discs we bought from a packet in Tesco for 59p. They would expand and open up into an editable form. Simple, yet an effective start to what was to come.

Next I made an attempt with Thai green curry. Even though I followed a recipe, it went slightly wrong. I am one of these pedantic obsessives who insist on following instructions word by word, and because of this, I did not question ‘four tablespoons of curry paste’. If I had consulted DH, I would have discovered that in his previous attempt two tablespoons was too hot. Alas, I did not consult anyone but Felicity Cloake (founder of the Guardian recipe) and my curry went down in flames. All in all, with the consideration of it being excessively spicy put aside, it was very flavoursome and tasty. Luckily it was accompanied with fragrant jasmine rice to soften the blow. My second attempt will only have one tablespoon of curry paste and I imagine it will be superb.

I did not intend to make starters, main and dessert, this just happened by accident. My next experiment was Vietnamese Black Eyed Beans and Rice Pudding, with the recipe taken from this website. I wanted a way to include black eyed beans in DS’ diet for its nutritional value; it is very high in protein, carbs and fibre to build him up big and strong. Coconut is also very high in the good kind of fat, not saturates. I am obsessed with feeding him goodness, but I will save that for another blog.

As you can see my version does not look as appetising as the one pictured on the recipe, or maybe I am just not a photo genius. Either way, it was delicious. Almost as scrumptious as my Grandma’s, which is good enough for me.

‘Cause we’ve all been painted by numbers.

We should bring back the abacus in schools, why did we ever stop using them? These kids are extraordinary at what they can do. I don’t think it’s particularly cruel; it starts off as a game when you’re young and it becomes something you want to thrive in. It teaches discipline, keeps you sharp and makes you want to learn. Three things which children lack in this modern age. Maybe if this was reintroduced and teachers were stricter in the classroom truancy, underage sex, drugs and whatnot, would not be an issue.

I’m going to buy DS an abacus soon; he’s too young to learn but it will be a good game. Although I agree with this method of teaching, I would not subject DS to the intensity of how the abacus is taught in Asian counties. I think there is a line, and if we get it right, children could really benefit from this.