Thursday, 14 January 2021

OTTOLENGHI'S HOMEMADE BIANG BIANG NOODLES WITH CHILLI OIL & TAHINI SOYA SAUCE

 

This is not a recipe to make in a rush. It will take a good afternoon to prep, some nerve wrecking minutes to pull the noodles and most likely a lengthy visit to a well stocked supermarket to find some of the more unusual ingredients used by Ottolenghi in this belter of a recipe BUT trust me on this one, it's totally worth the effort, especially as you end having made and hand-pulled (!) your own noodles! 

Instructions and the length of the ingredients list may sound daunting but actually it's all very doable if you go step by step and WOW the final bowl of noodles is a simple flavour explosion - silky noodles, the most incredible homemade chilli oil and a banger of a tahini soya sauce, it's a dish you won't forget in a hurry and which you would easily devour without a question at one of Ottolenghi's famous restaurants.

Your noodles do not have to end up looking perfect to taste the part but I actually didn't find making them too hard after watching this little tutorial video by a recipe developer at Ottolenghi and overall I found the whole process of creating these noodles from just flour, water and salt incredibly fascinating!

Admittedly, without the time we are forced to have on our hands right now I probably would have never tried making this but I am so glad I dared to approach a recipe that no doubt intimidated me a little because the end result was so, so good! 

Give this a go, I promise you will nail it.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS


FOR THE NOODLES
  • 300g plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150g water (measure the water rather than trust liquid measurement, it's about being precise here)

FOR THE CHILLI OIL
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 10g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • ½ red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 tbsp red bell pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1½ tsp Szechuan peppercorns, roughly crushed (got these at Waitrose)
  • 1½ tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • Salt

FOR THE TAHINI & SOYA SAUCE

  • 60g tahini (mixed very well, to combine the solids and fat)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1½ tbsp maple syrup
  • 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp water

TO SERVE
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and julienned
  • ½ large cucumber, halved lengthways, seeds scooped out and discarded, flesh cut into 1½cm dice
  • 1½ tbsp sesame seeds, toasted


METHOD
  • For the noodles, mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then very slowly pour in the water, stirring with a chopstick the whole time, until the mix comes together into a dough – it will look on the dry side once all the water has been added, but don’t be tempted to add any more.
  • Transfer to a work surface and knead for about five minutes, until the dough comes together into a shaggy ball. 
  • You’ll need to use some muscle here, because it will be quite tough. 
  • Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  • After the dough has rested, knead again vigorously for 10 minutes, until it’s very smooth: it should by now have the texture of Play-Doh and, if you poke it, the indentation should remain, rather than spring back. Cover again with a tea towel and rest for another 10 minutes.
  • Grease a big plate with plenty of vegetable oil. 
  • Cut the dough into eight equal pieces of about 55g each, then roll each piece into a sausage and place on the greased plate. 
  • Cover with cling-film and leave to rest at room temperature for two to three hours.
  • Meanwhile, make the chilli oil. 
  • Heat two tablespoons of sunflower oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat, add the next eight ingredients and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, turn down the heat to medium and fry very gently for five minutes, stirring often, until the shallot is soft. 
  • Add the tomato paste and all the sesame seeds, and cook for another two minutes. 
  • Stir in the remaining 120ml oil, reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – if the oil starts to bubble at all, take it off the heat for a minute, to cool down. 
  • Turn off the heat and leave to cool and infuse for at least an hour.
  • For the tahini soy sauce, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until very smooth.
  • Once the dough has rested, flatten each sausage into a rectangle: grease a work surface, then, working with one piece at a time, use a rolling pin to roll the dough sausage into a 16cm x 8cm rectangle. Use a chopstick to make an indent across the middle of the rectangle - this will be your “ripping line” later. Repeat with the other seven dough sausages, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Put a large spoonful each of the numbing oil and tahini soy sauce into two serving bowls and put to one side.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  • Meanwhile, and again working with one piece of dough at a time, take both ends of the dough rectangle between your thumb and fingers of each hand, and start to pull slowly and gently, until you feel there is no more tension left. 
  • Still holding both ends, slap the noodle down on the work surface about five times, gently stretching it out more as you go.
  • Lower the now stretched noodle on to the work surface, then, using the indent you made earlier, tear it in half lengthways to form a large, closed loop. 
  • Drop the noodle straight into the pan of boiling water, and cook for about a minute, or until it floats to the top.
  • Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, adding them to the water as they’re stretched and ripped. Drain the cooked noodles well, then transfer them to the serving bowls.
  • Use chopsticks to mix the noodles with the oil and sauces, adding more of each to taste. 
  • Top with the spring onion, cucumber and sesame seeds, and serve with more soy sauce drizzled on top.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

DIY JAPANESE OKONOMIYAKI (SAVOURY PANCAKE ON FRIED YAKISOBA NOODLES)


Ok, disclaimer first - this recipe requires a visit to an excellently stocked Japanese or Asian supermarket as well as the time and patience to find the slightly random and to normal western cooking unknown ingredients. Then again what else is there to do at the moment than go to the supermarket, so why not make it a bit more fun than the standard trip to the Sainsbury's down the road!

I found everything at the Japan Centre, which is located in the deserted ghost-town like part of central London that used to be buzzing Soho, and I did end up spending a little extravagantly on all the fancy imported ingredients (powdered seaweed anyone?!) but then once again what else is there left to do in full bleak lockdown than spent money on good food and good drinks, especially as I have always wanted to make Okonomiyaki at home!

For those unfamiliar, an Okonomiyaki is made from seasoned flour, cabbage, various fresh meats and vegetables, mixed together and cooked in a frying pan just like a pancake.

The version I made then gets flipped over onto some grilled yakisoba noodles and everything gets topped with lashings of sticky Okonomiyaki sauce, the rather addictive special Japanese Kewpie mayo (made with only the yolks, opposed to Western mayonnaise which typically uses the whole egg and which results in an almost custard-like texture of the Japanese version), "dancing" bonito flakes (simmered, smoked and fermented skipjack tuna flakes which will appear to move when hitting the hot pancake), finely ground seaweed (aonori) and pickled ginger!

It takes a bit of practise flipping your creation and I would recommend having two spatulas handy, I didn't and had to literally air flip the pancake onto the noodles which was quite nerve-racking, but overall making your own Okonomiyaki is a super fun and tasty way to have a Japanese inspired dinner and my end result came pretty close to the ones I have enjoyed at authentic Japanese joints in the past. 

My dream trip of a lifetime to Tokyo may have to remain a dream for the foreseeable future but with a little fantasy, my plate of Okonomiyaki did offer a brief escape from everyday mundanity right now.

Serves 1 for a generous main course


INGREDIENTS

TOPPINGS
  • Meat / seafood toppings of your choice- I went for 150g king prawns but you could also go for pre-cooked bacon rashers

TO SERVE

METHOD

  • Mix the okonomiyaki flour and the water together and set aside.
  • Chop the cabbage and spring onion into fine pieces and add to batter mix.
  • Add the egg and mix until everything is evenly combined. 
  • Take care not to over-mix, or this will result in a tough and chewy pancake.
  • Heat up a frying pan or hotplate with a little oil on medium high heat. 
  • Pour the okonomiyaki batter into a round pancake shape in the centre of the pan. 
  • Cook the pancake for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is light brown.
  • Meanwhile fry up your yakisoba noodles in another pan, ready to flip the pancake on to these when cooking the other side.
  • Once the bottom of the pancake is cooked, add any toppings to the top and flip over the yakisoba noddles to finish cooking. 
  • Do not press down with a spatula or the pancake will not be light and fluffy. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes and remove from the pan when finished.
  • Smother with lashings of okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise, sprinkle with bonito flakes, aonori seaweed and a portion of pickled ginger.

Monday, 11 January 2021

CARAMELISED SHALLOT & CHEDDAR TARTE TATIN


This was my very first attempt at a tarte tatin and this savoury version not only looked the part with wonderfully caramelised shallots, topped with melting sharp cheddar and lots of fresh herbs, but was also surprisingly easy to make, thanks to one of my favourite lockdown staple ingredient, the humble ready made puff pastry sheet! 

A great vegetarian main course, served best with some truffled mascarpone, rockets and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

INGREDIENTS

  • 75g butter
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp rosemary, fine chopped
  • ½ tbsp sage, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 900g round shallots, peeled, left whole then halved top stem trimmed
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp port or sweet red wine
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated
  • 1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry 
  • A handful of fresh thyme to garnish

METHOD

  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius
  • Place the butter in a frying pan, suitable to be used in the oven. 
  • Melt over a low/ medium heat then add in the garlic and chopped herbs. 
  • Keep the heat low to ensure the butter does not burn.
  • Arrange the shallots cut side down in the pan, in a circular pattern. 
  • Season with salt and fry for 10-15 minutes, over a medium heat until caramelised and softened on the side in tact with the pan.
  • Add the balsamic vinegar and port / red wine to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy.
  • Scatter the cheese over the shallots and then place the puff pastry over the pan, completely cover the shallots and tuck the pastry in at the sides, trimming down any access dough
  • Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20- 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool in the pan slightly for approximately 5 minutes. 
  • Place a large plate over the top of the pan and turn it over to remove the tarte from the pan.
  • Garnish with fresh thyme and serve immediately.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

LOCKDOWN 2.0 SURVIVAL GUIDE

PART 1: KEEP FIT WITH GRNDHOUSE

I am a total gym class junkie and dreaded the prospect of exercising at home when lockdown 1.0 hit, in fact it was the thing I was initial the most worried about, my working out routine playing a big part in maintaining my mental health.

However as we have learnt in the last year, humans tend to adapt quickly and get inventive when faced with challenges.

In the fitness industry that meant going online, of course not being able to run face to face classes.

I won’t lie, I tried just about every online / Zoom / IG live workout going, as addition to my daily runs, and not all of them were great, much like an IRL class so much of it being about the trainer and their style of training.

Eventually I found my dream team, two former Barry’s Bootcamp trainers, Connor Minney and Jay Copley, who ran their own independent online workout programmes, which kept me sane when everything else seemed uncertain in 2020.

These guys are as good as you will get in the fitness game, so I knew it was only going to be a matter of time until they outgrew the daily workouts filmed in their respective living rooms, which is why I was so delighted when they announced the launch of GRNDHOUSE.

Not that it’s only Connor and Jay on board at GRNDHOUSE. Made up of a trainer team of 6, this fitness power house includes the BEST trainers I came across at Barry’s and with the best I mean world class in their training style, ability to motivate and willingness to push you to your limits, and the mix of their personalties (special shoutout to Nik and Louis who I was also a regular with at Barry’s), makes this a world class online platform that I am very glad to be joining right at the beginning. Trust me on this one, if you want to stay fit during lockdown I cannot recommend joining enough.

Why? Well for £25 a month you get a 7 day a week workout plan, every day with a different trainer and different banging playlist. It’s a plan which has been programmed to perfection, pushing you to the absolute limits on some days, improving your mobilities on other, and on certain days focusing on one particular area (leg day anyone?!) to solidly improve your stamina, muscle memory and fitness in no time if you commit. 

Production and branding of the whole enterprise couldn’t be more on point and I cannot help but be a little proud of what these guys have built for themselves since leaving Barry’s.

Eventually they are looking to run their own real life classes and I am 100% there for that, but for now I know GRNDHOUSE will keep me sane and offer me the routine I will need in the next few tough weeks and months.

All you need is a pair of dumbbells and a commitment to join the grind, I’ll see you there.

Monday, 4 January 2021

SPICY VEGETABLE MISO RAMEN NOODLE SOUP WITH CHILLI ROAST SALMON



Anyone else utterly sick of the sight and taste of beige foods, cheese and chocolate? 

I mean, yes, overindulging is all fun and games during Christmas but by day 2 of those lost days between Christmas and NYE my body was literally screaming for nutrients, and after a takeaway and carb filled New Year's Day, I knew some healthy cooking was more than in order for me for the foreseeable future.

 So get ready for a lockdown January, brightened up a little, I hope, with some healthy yet tasty recipe inspiration from me! 

Starting off with this veg packed ramen noodle soup, topped with all the healthy fats from a juicy salmon fillet on top and lots of other good things from a warming and spicy miso broth. 

This is food for the soul to make up for the sins of the last few weeks and to help us get through which will, no doubt, be a rather bleak first month of what will hopefully be an altogether more cheerful 2021 (here is hoping).

SERVES TWO


INGREDIENTS

CHILLI ROAST SALMON & SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS
  • 2 boneless salmon fillets (skins on)
  • 150g shitaake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic chilli sauce 


MISO BROTH

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hondashi granules or more to taste (optional, if you have a good Asian supermarket near you) 
  • 2 baby bok choy – sliced thin, lengthwise 
  • 100g brussel sprouts, halved
  • 150g broccoli florets
  • Good handful of beansprouts
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 300g ramen noodles, cooked according to instructions

GARNISHES

  • 2 eggs ( boiled for 6 minutes for gooey centre)
  • 1 Nori sheet, cut into thin, short strips


METHOD
  • Preheat oven to 250 degree celsius
  • Stir the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and chilli sauce together in a small bowl. 
  • Brush the marinade over both sides of salmon and shiitake mushrooms and place on a baking paper lined baking sheet.
  • Cook for about 8-9 minutes or until salmon is cooked to your liking. 
  • Set aside.
  • Next cook the noodles and make the broth 
  • Bring the stock to a simmer in a big pot. 
  • Add the white miso paste, hondashi and stir until combined. 
  • Add all your veg (apart from the beansprouts) and bring to a boil until everything is just cooked. 
  • Keep at a very low simmer and add the beansprouts.
  • Divide the noodles among two bowls. 
  • Top with the salmon and shiitake mushrooms.
  • Arrange bok choy around the noodles and ladle the flavorful broth and other vegetable on top.
  • Garnish with soft boiled eggs and nori strips
  • Serve with chopsticks and a spoon