Friday 19 July 2013

Gado-Gado: hot & cold salad with a spicy peanut sauce

My version of Gado-Gado is one of only a handful of recipes in my cookbook that isn't accompanied by a photograph. This was not for lack of trying: we prepared a gorgeous platter for the shoot, but the pictures were so disappointing that they were booted out of the book.

Gado-Gado: a hot & cold salad with a spicy peanut sauce
An intriguing combinaton of warm & cold ingredients and a  
a spicy peanut sauce make this dish a winner for big gatherings.

This was no fault of the photographer, I hasten to add. The problem was that the dish looked curiously garish, and rather dated in the sense that it was reminiscent of those eager trays of crudités so popular at 1980s parties.

(The idea of fresh veggies accompanied by chilled dips was a good one, for its time, but the truth is that there are only so many raw celery and carrot batons you can eat before you have to plant your face in a beckoning bowl of brandied chicken liver paté.)
Gado-Gado: a hot & cold salad with a spicy peanut sauce
Choose beautiful shining fresh ingredients for this dish, cook them to 
perfection, and your guests will flatten every platter. 

The pictures on this page are ones I snapped when I was testing this recipe. I admit they look as gaudy as a carnival, but I hope that won't put you off trying this delicious and intriguing dish.

Gado-Gado was suggested to me by my friend, clever cook and brilliant thrower-of-parties Judy Levy, as my manuscript raced towards its deadline. Judy didn't give me a recipe, but she described the dish to me in detail over coffee, and I raced home - with a visit to the supermarket on the way - to make it.

I couldn't settle on any of the Gado-Gados I googled, because each one was so different from the next, so in the end I slammed my laptop shut and raced downstairs to suck a recipe out of my thumb.

Because some of the veggies in my Gado-Gado need to be boiled, this recipe requires some planning and careful timing (see my Cook's Notes, below). However, I think you'll find this is worth the effort: it's an interesting and abundant dish to serve for a large gathering, and it makes the very best of fresh seasonal vegetables. There's no need slavishly to follow my list of ingredients: choose what ever looks most bright and snappy on the day.

Gado-Gado is often served with a topping of crisp prawn crackers, but every time I make it this way I find an apologetic pile of these tucked into the shadows by guests too polite to say they don't like these dry fishy clouds.


(Recipe courtesy of Random House Struik)

This delicious and unusual dish of cooked vegetables, crisp salad ingredients and boiled eggs smothered with a piping-hot, spicy peanut sauce is my take on Gado-Gado, a dish popular all over Indonesia. There are many variations of this recipe, so feel free to make it your own by adding any other seasonal vegetables you fancy: mung bean sprouts, radishes, baby mielies, shredded Chinese cabbage, and so on. 

24 new potatoes
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1 small head of cauliflower, broken into florets
500 g slim green beans, topped and tailed
6 extra-large free-range eggs
2 cos lettuces
1 large English cucumber
500 g ripe cherry tomatoes
a packet of shrimp crackers (optional)

For the sauce: 
 2 cups (500 ml) roasted, salted peanuts
about 1½ cups (375 ml) hot water (see recipe)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp (45 ml) grated fresh ginger
5 spring onions, white parts only, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, finely sliced
2 small dried chillies, chopped (or more, to taste)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sunflower or olive oil
1 x 400 ml tin coconut milk
½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
2 tsp (10 ml) fish sauce (optional)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) grated palm sugar (or 1 Tbsp brown sugar)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
2 Tbsp (30 ml) lime juice, fresh or bottled

First make the sauce. Rinse the peanuts under cold running water for 30 seconds to remove excess salt. Using a blender or mini food processor, grind the peanuts to a wet, slightly chunky paste, adding just enough hot water (about 1½  cups) to help the blades turn freely. Tip the peanut paste into a bowl, leaving 3 Tbsp (45 ml) behind in the blender. Put the garlic, ginger, spring onions, lemongrass and chillies into the blender and process to a fairly fine paste, adding a little oil if necessary.

Fry the spice paste in oil over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the reserved peanut paste and all the remaining sauce ingredients, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. If the sauce bubbles volcanically, whisk in a little hot water to thin it. Season to taste and add a little more lime juice if you think it needs it.

Now get the veggies ready. Cook them, one type at a time, in plenty of briskly boiling salted water until just tender, but nowhere near mushy. New potatoes take about 20 minutes, carrot batons 7 minutes, cauliflower florets 5 minutes and green beans 4 minutes. Refresh the carrots, cauliflower and beans under cold running water as they come out of the pot. Pat the vegetables dry, arrange in groups on a tray and cover with clingfilm until needed. Hard boil the eggs in simmering water for 9–10 minutes and cool completely under a running tap.

Arrange the cos lettuce leaves on a large platter. Halve the cucumber lengthways, scrape out the seeds and cut into crescents. Cut the tomatoes in half crossways. Peel the eggs and cut lengthways into six wedges. Arrange the cooked and raw vegetables, in groups, on top of the lettuce, and tuck in the egg wedges. Heat the peanut sauce and drizzle it, piping-hot, over the vegetables (or pass it round in a jug). Top with a scattering of shrimp crackers.

Serves 8-10.

Cook’s Notes 
This is particularly delicious when the vegetables are warm. Prepare them all in advance as described above, then quickly reheat them in a very hot oven, on a baking tray covered with foil, for 5–6 minutes before arranging them on top of the salad ingredients. If you don’t have a fairly powerful blender, use 1 cup (250 ml) of chunky peanut butter instead of whole salted peanuts.

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1 comment:

Colleen said...

Oh MY! I am in love with the colours. Definitely not garish to these old eyes. It screams EAT ME in big bold capitals! A beautiful dish in every way x