Monday, 25 May 2020

KHACHAPURI ADJARULI (GEORGIAN CHEESE BREAD BOAT)



It may be a surprise to some of you, but Georgian food used to be known as 'the haute cuisine of the Soviet Union' and rightly so!

It's a cuisine that is, of course, heavily influenced by Eastern European cooking but also has elements of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, mainly as over the centuries Georgia, at one point or another, was ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Iranians, Arabs, Byzantians, Mongolians, Ottomans, and of course Russians.

This makes Georgian cuisine incredibly diverse and flavourful, and once restaurants are back to business in the UK I will for sure go back to Little Georgia, the charming, family run restaurant by London Fields which first introduced me to this country's food.

The dish I fell in love with at first taste when I dined there was no doubt khachapuri, or Georgian cheese bread, which is one of their most iconic national dishes.

It's the most amazing combo of cheese and dough, yet not like a pizza, it's hard to explain but boy have I never forgotten the taste of it, which is why I was more than delighted to find a super easy yet authentic tasting recipe for it online that also cuts a few corners for a slightly cooking fatigued lockdown warrior like me.

There are many different styles of khachapuri but most are made by wrapping a pile of cheese in a round of dough, then baking until the cheese is molten. The most famous khachapuri is from Adjara, a region of Georgia on the Black Sea. It’s an open-faced, boat-shaped loaf that’s often served with an egg yolk and a slice of butter to stir in at the table and which not only looks stunning but tastes amazing.

Traditionally, tangy imeruli and sulguni cheeses are used, but they are difficult to find in the UK so this recipe uses a blend of mozzarella, feta and goat cheese which may sound odd but makes for THE most amazing creamy, yet tangy, oozy and cheesy filling.

Feel free to make the dough from scratch but I went for some amazing ready made dough from the Northern Dough Co. which worked a treat once thawed and saved a bit of clearing up in the kitchen!

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 ready made pizza dough (I always get this one from Sainsbury's)
  • 1 cup/100 grams shredded whole milk, low-moisture mozzarella (not fresh mozzarella)
  • ⅓ cup/40 grams goat cheese, finely crumbled
  • ⅓ cup/40 grams drained, finely crumbled brined feta (not low-fat or light)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons cold butter for serving (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk from 1 large egg


METHOD
  • Heat oven to 180 celsius.
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper; set aside.
  • On a lightly floured surface, stretch and roll dough into a circle.
  • Brush off excess flour, then lay the dough on the sheet tray.
  • Using your fingers, roll, press and pinch two opposite sides of the circle a few inches into the centre, building sides up, then press and pinch the narrow ends together to form two points.
  • Continue to pinch and press the sides to create a raised rim and form the dough into an oval boat with an eye-like shape.
  • Let rolled dough rest in a warm place while you prepare the filling.
  • In a medium bowl, combine mozzarella, goat cheese and feta with 3 tablespoons water.
  • Stir with a fork until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  • Scrape the cheese mixture into the centre of the dough boat, spreading it into an even layer.
  • Bake khachapuri until the crust begins to brown and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove tray from oven, leaving oven on.
  • Brush sides of khachapuri generously with melted butter.
  • Return khachapuri to the oven for an additional 5 minutes until the crust is extra crisp and the cheese just starts to brown around the edges.
  • Using a spoon, make a shallow, 2-inch-wide well in the centre of the cheese.
  • Add the egg yolk and cold butter (if using), and serve immediately.
  • To serve, hold down one pointed end of the hot khachapuri with a fork; using another fork, quickly stir the egg and butter (if using) into the cheese mixture until it’s smooth and stretchy.
  • Rip pieces of the bread boat off to dip in the cheese while it’s still hot. ENJOY!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

LEMON, RICOTTA & ASPARGUS RAVIOLI





I have made some questionable lockdown purchases, justified in my mind by the fact that I have not been able to spend money on my usual vices that tend to be clothes, eating out and travel.

These have not only included pretty random things like a tie dye kit, a skipping rope or books I will never read even if we are stuck in this situation for another 3 years, but also a lot of cooking utensils that my kitchen was actually lacking like scales (yes I know, how did I not have any), cup measures and a decent non stick frying pan. All useful post Corona you can argue, but this week I had to very much stop myself from making that oh so common 'buy and use once before abandoning forever' purchase that is a pasta machine.

After hand rolling my pici pasta the other week, I wanted to try my hand at making more pasta, ravioli in particular, and before I knew it was looking up all kinds of ravioli making paraphernalia. However then it crossed my mind that when this all over I will most likely not be cooking as much or as elaborately as I am right now and to be honest a little bit of cooking fatigue has already hit me by now as it is.

The solution? Not waste money on a pasta making machine and instead find an alternative way to fulfil my ravioli craving! And succeed I did after a little online research which got me to the amazing shortcut of using wonton wrappers as ravioli substitute! A quick trip to my Asian supermarket later, I had my wrappers ready and the most fantastic filling in the making to finish off this gorgeous dish which makes the most of in-season asparagus.

The end result was so easy and fun to make and the filling literally tasted like spring on a plate with its gorgeous mix of asparagus, basil, pistachios, lemon juice and zest and ricotta, plus I adored the simplicity but punchy flavours provided by the sauce made from butter, thyme, white wine, chive and stock that finished off the dish. A stunning looking main that was a delight to eat, with not a single fancy kitchen gadget required!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup roasted pistachios, shelled
  • juice + zest of 2 lemons
  • kosher salt + pepper
  • 40-50 circle or square wonton wrappers
White Wine Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
METHOD
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add the asparagus and blanch until just tender, about 1-2 minutes. 
  • Drain and rinse under cold water.
  • In a food processor or blender combine 3/4 of the asparagus (reserve the remaining for serving), the basil, ricotta, parmesan, pistachios, lemon zest and juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. 
  • Pulse until combined and smooth.
  • Lay out about 6 wrappers. 
  • Spoon 1 tablespoon of filling into the centre of each wrapper. 
  • Brush the edges with water. 
  • Lay a second wrapper on top of each ravioli. 
  • Press down the edges to seal, pressing out all the air. 
  • Crimp the edges with a fork. 
  • Alternately you can create triangles with the square wrappers if desired. 
  • Be sure to keep the ravioli's covered as you work to prevent them from drying out.
  • To make the butter sauce in a frying pan melt the butter over medium heat. 
  • Add the chives and thyme and cook 30 seconds to a minute or until fragrant. 
  • Pour in the wine and broth and bring to a boil. 
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced slightly.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  • Boil the ravioli in batches for 1-2 minutes or until they float. Drain.
  • Divide the ravioli among bowls and ladle the sauce over the ravioli. 
  • Top with the remaining asparagus and enjoy!

Friday, 22 May 2020

ASPARAGUS FRITTATA WITH BURRATA & HERB PESTO







IT'S HOT OUTSIDE, and I mean 28 degrees in London with no access to a pool kinda hot, and with that the perfect time for light yet delicious meals that make the most of seasonal produce. 

This frittata recipe immediately caught my eye - far from your average boring egg heavy frittata with its fragrant herb pesto dressing and burrata centre piece. The original recipe calls for green asparagus, which of course is in season right now and can be found at almost every supermarket. 

I used white asparagus instead (or spargel as we call it in Germany) which is a total nightmare to find in London and ridiculously expensive, I think around £30 a kilo, because no one eats it in the country but I grew up with it around every spring time in the region I am from in Germany so had a yearning for it and deciding to treat myself and make a very luxury version of the dish, though as I said green British asparagus will also work a total treat in this! 

Make this on a balmy Sunday afternoon and enjoy it outdoors with a side of olive bread and that proper French butter with salt crystals. We may not be going on foreign holidays this year but this got me pretty close feeling like I was!

Serves 2 as main 

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch medium asparagus, tough bottoms removed
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, plus a few small basil leaves for garnish
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ball of fresh burrata, about 1/2 pound, at room temperature (I swear by Waitrose's excellent and very affordable version)


METHOD
  • Rinse asparagus, and pat dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal, or into julienne strips if preferred. Set aside.
  • In blender or small food processor, purée olive oil, basil and parsley to make a thin pesto. 
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Put a nonstick oven proof frying pan over medium-high heat. 
  • When hot, add butter and swirl to coat pan, then add asparagus. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring for about a minute without browning.
  • Quickly pour in eggs and stir with a wooden spoon, as if making scrambled eggs. 
  • Tilt pan and lift mixture at the edges to allow any runny egg from the top to make its way to the bottom. 
  • After 3 or 4 minutes, the frittata should be mostly set. 
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for around 5 minutes at 180c until fully set.
  • Set whole burrata in the centre of frittata. 
  • Drizzle with herb pesto. 
  • Pierce burrata with tip of a knife and spoon contents over frittata.
  • Garnish with basil leaves and enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

PANKO CRUSTED AUBERGINE & SWEET POTATO KATSU CURRY


I adore the fragrant and rich sauce that is at the core of a Japanese katsu curry yet had never thought of trying to make my own version from scratch at home until these never ending lockdown times! A rookie errors as it turns out, as making it couldn't have been easier and the final sauce even better than the infamous one plated up at Wagamamas pre-Covid. 

Traditionally, the sauce comes served with breaded deep-fried cutlets of meat (usually pork or chicken) but this version works a total treat with thick slices of aubergine and sweet potato, dipped in egg yolk and with a wonderful panko crust (Japanese-style bread crumbs made from white bread without the crusts which results in a lighter, airier breadcrumb that absorbs less grease and stays crispier for longer than their traditional counterparts), making this the perfect veggie version of the classic Katsu curry that is also dairy free! 

I had my curry and veg with cauliflower "rice" which you can get readily grated at Sainsbury's and which was turned out to be a total game changer. I am not a big fan of rice unless we are talking risotto or sushi but this finely grated cauliflower, once you have sautéed it in a frying pan, no oil needed, is perfect to soak up the amazing sauce without the carby heaviness of rice so I can really only recommend it! 

It seems pretty easy to make at home too, as long as you have a food processor or are willing to invest some elbow grease by grating the uncooked cauliflower by hand but I picked up a bag for under a pound and honestly cauliflower rice or whatever you want to call it will for sure make a more regular appearance in my cooking. 

If you can, also do try and find the proper panko bread crumbs, their crispiness really elevated the sliced up vegetables into something quite special, and most Asian supermarkets do stock them. 

While there also pick up some pickled sushi ginger which works so well on the side of the curry to cut through the richness of the sauce! 

This is proper comfort food with a healthy edge that you can rustle up in under an hour and for sure one to be added to my permanent recipe repertoire!

Serves 2
INGREDIENTS

For the curry sauce:
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp medium curry powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp garam masala 
  • 350ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1-2 tsp soy sauce, to taste

For the katsu veg:
  • 1 aubergine, cut into discs
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into discs
  • 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
  • 1 egg, beaten (or 5 tbsp nut milk)
  • Panko breadcrumbs

To serve:
  • Cauliflower rice (I got mine ready to be quickly sautéed in a frying pan from Sainsbury's)
  • Pickled sushi ginger
  • Edamame beans 

METHOD
  • Begin by making the curry sauce.
  • Heat a drizzle of oil in a saucepan and add the onion, garlic and ginger.
  • Cook on a low heat for 6-8 minutes, until softened.
  • Stir in the curry powder, turmeric and garam masala, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the stock, honey, mirin and soy sauce.
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and blitz with a stick blender or food processor, until smooth.
  • Return to the pan and cover to keep warm.
  • Then it's time to prepare your veggies!
  • In a pan of boiling water, par-boil the sweet potato slices until just tender.
  • Drain and pat dry with kitchen towel.
  • Coat the aubergine and sweet potato slices in the seasoned flour, then dip in the beaten egg before coating in the panko breadcrumbs.
  • Pour enough vegetable oil into a wide frying pan to just cover the base, then heat on medium until shimmering. 
  • Add a few slices of the panko vegetables (don’t overcrowd the pan) and fry for 2-3 minutes, until golden, then flip and do the same on the other side.
  • Drain on kitchen paper while you cook the rest of the vegetables.
  • Serve the fried katsu vegetables with the curry sauce, cauliflower rice, edamame beans and pickled ginger.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

THE MOST AMAZING HALLOUMI FRIES WITH POMEGRANATE, MINT & SPICED YOGURT SAUCE



If you do one thing this weekend make these out of this world halloumi fries.

I mean let's be honest, halloumi is bloody tasty as it is but wow the flavour combo of tossing the crispy fried strips of halloumi, fresh out of the frying pan, in cumin and topping them with pomegranate molasses, fresh pomegranate seeds, torn mint leaves and a yogurt spiced with ras el hanout (a readily available North African spice mix - I got mine at Waitrose) makes this dish something quite special and even better you can rustle it up in a matter of minutes!

Most organic and middle eastern / Turkish supermarkets will stock the molasses and I do think they are worth seeking out, the rich sweetness of the molasses working a treat with salty goodness of the halloumi. Whether you have this as starter or as part of a mezze lineup, these fries are so, so good and will change your halloumi game forever!

INGREDIENTS
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Halloumi 2 blocks, cut into fat chips
  • Sumac 1 tsp
  • Ras el hanout 1 tsp
  • Natural yoghurt 100ml
  • Pomegranate molasses 2 tbsp
  • Pomegranate seeds 100g
  • Mint a handful, chopped

METHODS
  • Heat a shallow pool of oil in a large frying pan. 
  • Pat the halloumi dry before adding to the pan and cook, turning until golden brown on all sides.
  • Tip into a bowl, add the sumac and toss.
  • Mix the ras el hanout with the yogurt and season with salt.
  • Put the fries on a platter, drizzle over the yogurt and pomegranate molasses then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and mint. 
  • Eat immediately.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

VIBRANT VEGGIE SIDE DISHES

I love vegetables and for me a nutrient filled side dish of beautifully prepared veg, bursting with flavour and freshness, is as important to a meal than the main dish which is why I thought I'd share a few recent side dish favourites.

Each dish is prepared in minutes yet tastes amazing and perfectly accompany just about any main!

A last note: I used to hate fennel but PLEASE give this braised fennel a chance, it will change your mind about this underrated vegetable forever!


COURGETTE, BASIL & ROCKET SALAD IN A LEMONY PARMESAN DRESSING


INGREDIENTS
  • Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 Tablespoons
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 courgettes
  • 1 large handful rocket leaves
  • 1 large handful basil leaves

METHOD
  • Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan, salt and pepper together for the dressing. 
  • Thinly slice the courgette at an angle or use a mandoline.
  • Put the courgette, rocket and basil in a small bowl and mix just enough of the dressing in to coat thinly and serve.


BRAISED FENNEL WITH ROSEMARY


INGREDIENTS
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 Rosemary sprig
  • A squeeze of lemon juice, 
  • For serving salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD
  • Cut the fennel into quarters or eighths, depending on size, and season with olive oil and salt.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas mark 4.
  • Transfer the fennel to an ovenproof dish. 
  • Pour in the stock and add the rosemary and seasoning. 
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until soft and tender. 
  • If necessary, top up with more stock or water so the fennel doesn’t dry out. 
  • Squeeze over some lemon juice before serving.

BALSAMIC GLAZED ROAST CARROT & BEETROOT ON A BED OF LEAVES


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pack of cooked beetroot, quartered
  • 200g of carrots (if you can find these mini ones are super cute, otherwise cut into chunks similar in size to the beetroot)
  • 150g rocket leaves

For The Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

METHOD
  • For the Balsamic dressing add all the ingredients to a jar, close the lid and shake well to mix everything well.
  • Clean and cut beetroot and carrots  into bite-size pieces.
  • Preheat oven to 200 °C.
  • Toss vegetables in in the above dressing. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked tender and is caramalized around the edges.
  • Add veg to the bed of rocket and drizzle with leftover balsamic glaze.

Monday, 11 May 2020

CREAMY PRAWN & MASCARPONE RISOTTO WITH HOMEMADE PRAWN STOCK





Since my first attempt at a risotto, a rather wonderful spring vegetable risotto with poached egg, early on in lockdown, I have been super keen to try my hand at making another!

Facing another weekend alone I thought why not try making my own stock and this wonderful prawn risotto looked so good that I was only slightly scared to completely mess it up.

And I have to say, it may take a bit of time (the stock has to simmer for a good hour) but step by step this was actually really manageable to make and master and heck now I even know how to shell and butterfly a prawn, another skill to add to my 'what I learnt during lockdown' CV.

The final risotto was outstanding, the stock so beautifully rich in it's prawn flavour, and even further elevated by last minute additions of mascarpone, butter and lemon zest

This risotto is for sure the one if you want to impress when hosting, totally restaurant quality bug achievable to make home!

My secret tip: Iceland actually sells surprisingly good quality whole prawns which means this dish may taste and look luxury but can be affordable to make! Better get stirring!

Serves 3

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 450g head-on prawns, shells and heads removed and reserved, prawns butterflied (if you don't know how go on youtube and watch a quick tutorial, I did and was a master by the end of it!)
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato puree
  • ⅔ cup dry white wine, divided
  • 1 medium carrot, scrubbed, halved crosswise
  • 1 celery stalk, halved crosswise
  • 6 large sprigs thyme
  • 2 large onions, peeled, halved through root end, divided
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled, divided
  • Salt
  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 130g. mascarpone, room temperature, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. thinly sliced chives

METHOD
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. 
  • Add prawn heads and shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until shells and oil are bright red and shells are very fragrant, 5–8 minutes. 
  • Use a potato masher to press down very firmly on heads to release their juices. 
  • Stir in tomato puree and cook until it starts to brown and stick to bottom of pot, about 1 minute. 
  • Add ⅓ cup wine and cook, scraping up brown bits, until almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add carrot, celery, thyme sprigs, 2 onion halves, all but 4 garlic cloves, and 8 cups water. 
  • Toss in a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high. 
  • Reduce heat and simmer until stock is reduced by one-quarter and very fragrant, 60–70 minutes.
  • While stock is simmering, finely chop remaining onion and garlic cloves.
  • Remove stock from heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan; discard solids. Taste and season lightly with salt. 
  • Keep warm over low heat.
  • Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. 
  • Add chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent and softened, about 5 minutes (do not let it take on any color). 
  • Add rice and cook, stirring often, until grains are almost entirely translucent and starting to stick to bottom of pot, about 3 minutes. 
  • Stir in remaining ⅓ cup wine and cook, stirring, until wine is almost completely evaporated. 
  • Ladle in about 1 cup warm stock and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. 
  • Repeat process, adding more stock as each addition is absorbed, until rice is tender but not mushy, 25–30 minutes. 
  • The risotto should be loose, creamy, and saucy, but thick enough that you can see bottom of pot when stirring.
  • Season risotto with salt and pepper and stir in prawns.
  • Cook, stirring, until prawns are pink and cooked through, about 2 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and finely grate in lemon zest. 
  • Add butter and a few spoons of mascarpone and stir until incorporated.
  • Spoon risotto onto plates and dollop on remaining mascarpone & top with chives. 

Saturday, 9 May 2020

HOMEMADE VEGETABLE GYOZA DUMPLINGS WITH TOASTED SESAME, HONEY & SOY DIP






I absolutely adored making these little gyoza style dumplings. Yes, they were a bit fiddly to start with but great fun once you get the hang of closing up each gyoza parcel.

My top tip: don't overfill them or its going to be a messy and not very nice looking final result. The filling here is fantastic and filled with fresh flavours (I love the mix of ginger, sesame and crunchy veg) and the dipping sauce is a great finishing touch and far less boring than your standard soy sauce for dipping!

Get your loved ones or flatmates involved in making these as it does take some time to use up all the wrappers and is also quite a fun activity to fill an afternoon!

I am a total homemade gyoza convert and will definitely make these again as a fab starter for a dinner party post Covid, plus they are once again fully vegan and dairy free so really cater to all!

Let me know how you get on and if your dumpling folding skills are any better than mine, I will have to work on the final finish for my next lot to create that perfect edge!


INGREDIENTS

GYOZA DUMPLINGS
Sesame oil
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
200g shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded kale
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
36-40 gyoza wrappers

SAUCE
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons Gochujang (Korean chili paste) or chili sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey 

METHOD
  • Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. 
  • When the oil shimmers, add the mushroom, cabbage, carrots, kale and ginger. 
  • Cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies have cooked down, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add the soy sauce, chives, and sesame seeds and cook another 2-3 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. 
  • Remove from the heat and let cool. 
  • To assemble, spoon 1 tablespoon of filling onto each wrapper. 
  • Brush water around the edge of the wrapper. 
  • Fold the dough over the filling to create a half moon shape, pinching the edges to seal. Repeat with the remaining wrappers. 
  • Heat a large frying pan with the remaining sesame oil over medium-high heat. 
  • When the oil shimmers, add the gyozas and cook until the bottoms are light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. 
  • Pour 1/4 cup of water into the pan and immediately cover with a tight fitting lid. 
  • Turn heat to medium and let the dumplings steam for 3 minutes. 
  • Serve immediately with sauce.
  • To make the sauce, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. 

Thursday, 7 May 2020

HOMEMADE VEGETARIAN RAMEN




This vegetarian ramen recipe may require a little time to prep, making the broth was almost therapeutic, but the end result was simple outstanding with the final broth being super silky, flavourful and pretty close to the classic pork based one usually used for ramen!

Ingredients are pretty straight forward, I had the Korean red pepper powder in my cupboard from making the Kimchi, but try to get your hands on some kombu which is dried seaweed which gets added to the broth for flavour as it really does make a huge difference to the final result! 

I mean guys we have another Bank holiday weekend upon so let's make it a productive one cooking wise!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. black or white sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. gochugaru (coarse Korean red pepper powder) or 1½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 2" piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • A handful of dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4cm x 5cm piece dried kombu (seaweed, available at most organic and Asian supermarkets)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 baby pak choi, quartered lengthwise
  • Purple sprouting broccoli 
  • 300g dried ramen noodles
  • 2 eggs


METHOD

  • Cook garlic and ¼ cup oil in a medium pot over medium heat, stirring often, until garlic is beginning to turn golden, about 3 minutes. 
  • Stir in sesame seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden brown and crisp, about 1 minute. 
  • Transfer mixture to a small bowl and stir in gochugaru; season with salt. 
  • Wipe out pot and set aside.
  • Trim dark green parts from scallions and thinly slice; set aside for serving. 
  • Coarsely chop white and pale green parts. 
  • Heat remaining 2 Tbsp oil in reserved pot over medium-high. 
  • Cook chopped scallions and ginger, stirring often, until scallions are charred in spots, about 4 minutes. 
  • Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to stick to the bottom of pot and darkens slightly, about 2 minutes. 
  • Add mushrooms and kombu, then stir in 5 cups cold water. 
  • Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let sit until mushrooms soften, about 10 minutes. 
  • Remove and discard kombu.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer solids to a blender alongside the garlic, red pepper and sesame paste. 
  • Add a ladleful or 2 of broth to blender and purée until smooth. 
  • Stir purée back into broth in pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 
  • Add butter a piece at a time, whisking to combine after each addition before adding more. 
  • Stir in soy sauce; season with salt. 
  • Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add bok choy and broccoli and cook until bright green and tender. 
  • In another small saucepan boil water and add eggs for 6 minutes and 30 seconds. 
  • Drop them into a bowl of ice water and peel after they have cooled down a little.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a plate. 
  • Return water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions. 
  • Drain and divide among bowls.
  • To serve, ladle broth over noodles, then top with bok choy and broccoli. 
  • Top with halved eggs and enjoy!

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

VEGAN SWEET POTATO, ZA'ATAR & TAHINI DIP

As we have established by now I like my nibbles and I was once again on the look out for another dip alternative to hummus (controversially I am not the biggest hummus fan). 

This sweet potato based dip is super flavourful, thanks to the additions of za'tar, you can get this Middle Eastern spice mix at most supermarkets now, hot sauce and tahini, and was made pretty quickly once the sweet potato is cooked.

I tried to roast the sweet potato in the oven once again but, Jesus, it just takes too long for this little blonde with zero patience, so if you have one, stick it in the microwave and you'll have this dip ready in less than half an hour. 

Great with celery but also works with sturdy crisps and carrot sticks, and of course a glass of your favourite wine!

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar, divided
  • A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce ( I used Siracha)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


METHOD
  • Preheat the oven to 220 Celsius
  • Pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork and wrap each one tightly in foil. 
  • Place on a baking sheet and roast until the flesh gives easily when pressed, about 1 hour. 
  • Unwrap and set aside to cool completely. 
  • Alternatively cover pierced sweet potato with a damp tea towel in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for around 10 minutes.
  • Peel the sweet potatoe and place them in a food processor. 
  • Add the tahini, water, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons za’atar, hot sauce, and pepper. 
  • Puree until completely smooth. 
  • Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
  • To serve scrape the dip into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of za’atar.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

CRAB PASTA



Strangely enough I have basically been full vegetarian since lockdown began, not consciously but somehow all the recipes I ended up making were veg based, but this week I had a real craving for some good seafood and a fantastic crab pasta that I had on day trip to Whitstable last year came to my mind and I knew I had to try and recreate it!

This dish is full of flavour and doesn't need any cream or cheese, literally like spring on a plate, and rustled up in less than half an hour!

Serves 3

INGREDIENTS
  • 500g of dried spaghetti or linguine
  • 80g of white cooked and picked crab meat (got mine from Waitrose which was excellent, ditto the brown meat)
  • 80g of brown cooked and picked crab meat
  • 1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 50g of unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD
  • In a bowl, mix together the white and brown crab meats, chilli, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice. Season with a good grind of pepper. Refrigerate until needed.
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add salt to resemble sea water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, add a splash of pasta cooking water to a separate pan, add the butter and melt on a low heat, then add the crab mixture.
  • When the pasta is cooked, remove it from the water and add it to the crab.
  • Keep the pasta cooking water. 
  • Vigorously toss the pasta in the pan for at least 30 seconds to work the gluten, adding a splash more cooking water if it starts to dry up. 
  • Continue cooking the pasta until the sauce emulsifies. 
  • Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve immediately.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

TRUFFLED EGG TOAST




It's week 398577 of lockdown and I have to admit as much as I have loved honing my culinary skills and researching recipes, a little bit of cooking fatigue has begun to set in (God damn all I want to do really is go to a restaurant where I don't have to do the washing up and someone makes and serves me a cocktail), so this Friday I wanted something relatively easy yet tasty to make. Even better then  that in the case of this indulgent truffle egg toast the dish also reminded me of one of my favourite London restaurants back in my uni days, Spuntino, as this was their signature dish.

Spuntino was THE hipster hot spot when it opened during my second or third year at UCL in 2011. It was bang in the middle of Soho, on a dodgy side street and next to a couple of sex shops with no signage. Inside it was all exposed bricks and low lights, waiters were covered in tattoos and not bad on the eye, and the food served was luxe takes on American junk food classics - think mac n cheese, sliders, deep fried olives and of course their infamous truffled egg toast, all served on enamel metal plates, while you perched around their bar and sipped on an overpriced Negroni (oh how I miss overpriced cocktails sigh...).

I spent many evenings and a big proportion of my student loan here, laughing with friends, sobering up with all the carbs after an evening out in Soho and on the occasional bad date but as is with everything in life eventually I moved on. Spuntino no longer was the coolest spot in town, the queues to get in were getting ridiculous and it was by then in just about in any London guide book so inevitably rammed with tourists.  As a whole the culinary scene in London was also moving eastwards and sadly late last year Spuntino shut it's doors for now.

I will forever have the fondest memories of the place and particularly the truffled egg toast is something I had craved many times since my last visit there which is why I simply had to make it at home when I stumbled across the recipe for it online. And WOW it literally was like I was back at Spuntino. This is total truffle heaven and so easy to make so that if you do one bit of cooking this weekend make it this, even if you never made it to Spuntino yourself.

If possible try to source some fontina (a good deli will have it) but Gruyere or Emmenthal will do the same trick and get an unsliced loaf of white sandwich bread as you will need a big old chunk for this.

For a hot second while eating this I was back in that filled little dive bar, enjoying London's vibrant dining scene that I can't wait to delve back into when this is all over but in the meantime this will do!

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 thick slice of square white bread
  • 80g fontina cheese, grated
  • 2 medium free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • flaky sea salt and black pepper


METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Lightly toast the bread on both sides.
  • Put the bread on a tray. Use a very sharp knife to carefully cut a shallow well into the centre of the bread, about a 5cm/2in square. To do this cut the edges and push down the centre. Remember this is a well not a hole. It is important that you don’t cut all the way through!
  • Distribute the fontina evenly around the rim of the well.
  • Mix the yolks together with the truffle oil and pour them into the well then bake for 3-5 minutes until the cheese melts.
  • Take the toast out and give the yolk a little stir then sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  • Eat immediately.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

MISO & WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES



I love cookies, in fact I think they are my favourite sweet treat alongside ice cream, and when Crème opened in London late last year I know I had found cookie heaven. I mean I even dedicated a whole blog post to their amazing cookies, only 4 flavours available but each huge cookie so amazing that people regularly queued for hours to get their hands on some. 

I was therefore more than gutted when they closed their doors because of Corona, particularly craving their iconic white chocolate and miso cookie at least once a week. Yes, miso and white chocolate sounds like an odd combination but I kid you not it made them just about the best cookie in the whole wide world, the flavours somehow working together to make it something quite special. 

While Crème as now started doing deliveries and pick ups,  I can't really justify ordering a box of 6 (their minimum order) for one small blonde so instead I tried to re-create their cookie magic at home! I came across a great recipe from The Anna Edit that claimed to be pretty close to the Crème ones which got me so excited I even invested in an electric whisk (as previously mentioned on here I am more of a cook than baker and that will never change) and WOW they did not disappoint. 

Of course nothing will ever be as good as a Crème one, God knows how they get them so fluffy, but the finished cookies were INCREDIBLE and trust me the white miso is a total game changer to cookie making. 

Even better the cookies are baked from frozen so that if you are by yourself you aren't left with 12 made cookies in a lockdown that doesn't lend itself to a lot of self discipline! I for one could not be happier to have them waiting in my freezer, ready to be baked and out of the oven and ready to eat in under half an hour! Even for a non baker like me I will 100% be making these regularly (and of course still make it to Crème when things return to normal!). Trust me, these are VERY good so get baking! 

Makes 12-14 (I halved quantities for myself but they will get eaten either way)

INGREDIENTS

  • 225g butter
  • 200g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 2 medium egg
  • 360g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste
  • 350g white chocolate, roughly chopped


METHOD

  • Mix the butter and sugar until fully combined, either in a stand-mixer or with a hand mixer. 
  • Once creamy, mix for a further five minutes until the mixture gets paler and light and fluffy.
  • Mix one egg at a time into the mixture. 
  • Add the flour, cornflour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and miso paste and mix until just combined – try not to over mix here.
  • Then add in the white chocolate and again mix until just combined. 
  • Spoon the mixture out onto a plate or baking tray into cookie size mounds (don’t compact them down!) and put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
  • Remove quantity of cookies you are after and cook on a foil-lined baking tray for 8 minutes at 200 degrees celsius, then turn the tray around and bake for a further 3 minutes until the tops are light golden.
  • Allow to cool and firm up on the baking tray for at least 20 minutes, if not longer to let them set a little!