I was going to make the pho featured in Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food, as that’s the book I’m using for inspiration at the moment.
I had bought some beef to make it with, but then put off making the pho for two days after being invited out for dinner. I never turn down dinner.
By day three the beef was no good, and so that was the end of that. I did have some Quorn though, so I simply used that instead, and then rejigged the entire recipe to suit me, so actually I still need to try Jamie’s pho, because this is nothing like that.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, pho is a clear, spicy broth which originates from Vietnam, and into which you add stuff like herbs and meat etc. It’s kind of pimp my broth.
Jamie’s recipe takes a long while because he shows you how to make your beef stock from scratch etc.
My pho takes no time at all because I cheat, mercilessly.
As ever, I measured ingredients by eye and seasoned everything according to my own taste, so you must figure those bits out for yourself.
1 packet Quorn chunks. Tofu would work well as a substitute, but I’m the only person in my house that likes it.
2 red onions diced small
6 cloves garlic, crushed or minced to release the flavour
1 red chilli sliced thinly. I leave the seeds in. (Jamie suggests four. Your call)
2 cloves (you could live without this. Not a massive fan of the clove myself, but I saw Jamie had put some in and stuck a couple in just to see what would happen – Do not accidentally eat the cloves or you will belch up spicy mouthwash for a week)
4 star anise (do not eat the star anise at the end either, although this is slightly more delicious than a clove)
1 stick lemon grass
Soy sauce – to taste
Fish sauce – to taste
Oyster sauce – to taste, or something similar, or not.
Spring onions ( I used a whole bunch)
Fresh mint to taste
Fresh coriander to taste
Chives to taste
Thai basil to taste – basically bung in some oriental tasting herbs. Jamie uses different ones to me. I wouldn’t always use chives, but I had some that needed using up.
Beansprouts (big handful – or more if you really love ’em)
Noodles of your choice. I use vermicelli rice noodles.
Chicken stock (beef, or fish or veg stock works just as well. Quorn is pretty bland so you can flavour it how you like.)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a slug of oil in a large pan. I used garlic olive oil. Chilli oil would be nice too.
Add the onions and a pinch of salt, along with the cloves and star anise, and sweat down until the onions are soft.
Add the garlic and chilli (you can cut extra chilli to hold back and add as a garnish for crunch if you like), and stir in.
Slice your lemon grass very thinly and add.
At this point I added the Quorn because mine was frozen. If I had some in the fridge I’d leave it until later in the cooking process, because you don’t need to cook Quorn for very long at all.
I added a stinking amount of ground pepper at this point. I have some from Sichuan which is quite citrus toned and goes well with the lemon grass. Any pepper will do though.
I also grated in the zest of the lime at this stage.
Add your stock, and all other liquids (soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce etc) to taste. I added oyster sauce because I thought my stock needed a bit more body and it was to hand. It is not authentic to the dish at all, but it worked in the instant. You could add more soy, or whatever you like. Taste as you go along to see what works for you.
Bring broth to boil.
While this is happening prepare your noodles. The vermicelli rice noodles take literally two minutes in boiled water. After you’ve drained them, they’re ready to serve.
Once the broth has boiled you can add in all your fresh ingredients if you like. Jamie Oliver suggests leaving them all chopped on a huge serving board and you add what you want, so you are putting your own broth together. I couldn’t be bothered with the mess, so I added all my stuff in, stirred it round and turned the heat off.
Divide the noodles between bowls, add ladlefuls of the broth and decent amounts of the veg/herbs, Quorn etc.
In Jamie’s recipe you cook the meat separately, slice it up and add it in to each bowl along with all the fresh ingredients. Quorn would be pretty bland this way, and adding it to the broth gives it time to soak up the flavours and make it more interesting. Had I used the beef I would have cooked it separately.
The lime is to be cut into wedges and each person adds their own to taste. I don’t give my children the option to refuse, so squibbed a dunk of lime juice in each bowl as I served it.