November 2008


korean-cucumber-noodles

If you’re looking for a dish that’s light yet perks up your palate, then this is ideal. The mixture of hot chilli and cool cucumber is irresistible. Gochuchang is available in Asian grocers or Chinatown. If you can’t find it, don’t leave it out as it’s an essential flavouring in this dish – use miso paste, which is more widely available, instead, combined with red chilli powder to taste. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature – all give different textures and are equally delicious. Serves 4 to 6.

1 lb/ 450g fine wheat or egg noodles
4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
½ pint soy sauce
2 fl oz white rice vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
4 level tablespoons gochujang (Korean soybean and red chilli paste)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for minimum 30 minutes
1 very large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and sliced
Small red radishes, decoratively cut into flowers
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
A little cucumber peel, finely shredded

1. Cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Then drain, rinse in cold water, and place them a large bowl. Immediately add sesame oil, and toss around with a fork and a spoon to ensure that they don’t stick.
2. In a separate bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, gochujang, garlic and spring onions.
3. Drain the shiitake mushrooms, carefully removing any grit, and slice them. Add the sauce, mushrooms and cucumber to the noodles, and toss gently until everything is mixed thoroughly.
4. Pile the noodles in the centre of a large serving platter. Surround them with egg slices and radish flowers for decoration, and top with sesame seeds and shredded cucumber peel before serving.

stuffed-acorn-squash

I wasn’t going to do another squash recipe: there are, relatively speaking, too many on this site already – as compared to, say, kohlrabi or turnip recipes. But squash is a sexy, popular, versatile vegetable that lends itself well to different types of fillings. So it makes a great centrepiece for a special occasion dinner table.

Ras el hanout is a wonderfully fragrant, traditional Moroccan spice mix, made up from a very wide range of whole spices freshly crushed together. It might include cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, rose petals and so on – the recipe varies throughout Morocco; each spice stall and family has its own version. Getting good-quality ras el hanout is key to this recipe. In the UK, you can obtain it from large supermarkets, food halls, speciality spice shops, food markets, and Mediterranean delis. Experiment with different spice blends for this recipe. Ras el hanout has a punchy, distinctive flavour, so if you are using a particular blend or brand for the first time, use sparingly – and hand out harissa (Moroccan hot sauce) on the side for extra flavour, if at all needed. Serves 4.

For the squash:

2 medium acorn (or another variety) squash
Olive oil for greasing
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper

For the filling:

6 oz/ 150g white, brown and wild rice mix
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil (Moroccan, if you have it)
1 small leek, trimmed and finely sliced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1 very small green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 to 6 small button mushrooms, halved
1 oz/ 25g pine nuts, lightly toasted in a small pan
1 oz/ 25g ready-to-eat apricots, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon ras el hanout
¼ teaspoon saffron, crushed in a mortar and soaked in a tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 large green olives, stoned and chopped
4 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 200C/ 400F/ gas mark 6.
2.    Cut the squash in half vertically through their stems. Do not peel the squash or remove the stems. Scoop out the seeds and discard (or dry them in a very low oven for later use as a snack).
3.    Mix a little oil with garlic, paprika and seasoning, then paint the insides of the squash with this mixture using a pastry brush.
4.    Place the squash on a greased baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 30 minutes until tender.
5.    Meanwhile cook the rice according to the packet instructions. Once cooked, let it cool thoroughly.
6.    Heat the oil in a pan, and cook the leek, carrot, pepper and mushrooms for 5-10 minutes until soft.
7.    Add the cooked, cooled rice and stir. (You may be wondering: what’s the point of cooling the rice first if it’s going to be added to a hot pan anyway. Well, the reason is that if you add the hot rice, the grains will break down and the filling will become mushy. If the rice is allowed to cool down first, the grains will remain intact and separate).
8.    Add the pine nuts, apricots, ras el hanout, saffron, lemon juice, olives, coriander and seasoning. Mix gently.
9.    Stuff the squash cavities with the rice mixture, pressing down the filling lightly but firmly.
10.  Serve immediately, or cover with foil and keep warm in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

sweet-potato-pudding-with-clotted-cream

Thanksgiving hasn’t quite caught on here in the UK – although I’m not sure why because we seem to celebrate every other festival! This easy recipe is dedicated to American readers and my American ex-pat friends in the UK. You can adjust the amount of spices according to taste. Serves 6.

2 oz/ 50g desiccated coconut
2 eggs
½ lb/ 225g light brown sugar
2 medium tins evaporated milk
3 oz/ 75g self-raising flour
2 oz/ 50g unsalted butter, softened
4 oz/ 100g golden sultanas
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice berries, freshly crushed in a mortar
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1 ½ lb/ 675g sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
2 oz/ 50g flaked almonds (optional)

1.    Heat the oven to 190 C/ 375 F/ gas mark 5.
2.    Soak the coconut in a few tablespoons of hot water for at least half hour, then drain on kitchen paper. This will ensure that the coconut is soft in texture rather than coarse.
3.    Beat the eggs thoroughly. Add the sugar, and beat well again. Add the evaporated milk, and continue beating well until the sugar is dissolved.
4.    Add the flour, butter and sultanas, and mix thoroughly.
5.    Add the spices, vanilla extract, grated sweet potatoes, and the drained desiccated coconut. Once again, mix thoroughly.
6.    Pile into a buttered baking dish, and even the top surface with the back of a palette knife. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 45 – 50 minutes until golden brown. During the last 10 minutes of cooking time, sprinkle with flaked almonds, if using.
7.    Cut into squares or wedges. Serve hot or at room temperature with thick cream, custard, ice cream, or a portion of tropical fruit salad. The pudding also tastes delicious all on its own.

black-bean-chili-in-colourful-bowls

This is vegetarian chilli verde – a version of chilli con carne using green vegetables and black beans. I don’t claim that it is authentic – but it is as healthy and hearty as it is tasty. Serve alongside cumin-flecked sweetcorn and tomato rice. Serves 4 to 6.

2 green peppers
2 to 4 green chillies
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and roughly chopped
6 green or red tomatoes, peeled and quartered
225g/ 8 oz fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons corn oil
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
100g/ 4 oz chestnut mushrooms, sliced
400g/ 1 lb can black turtle beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint/ ½ litre vegetable stock
100g/ 4 oz broccoli florets, steamed for just 2 minutes
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano

To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Sour cream
Lime wedges
Diced avocadoes
Tortilla chips
Pickled sliced jalepeno peppers
Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

1.    Grill the green peppers and chillies until their skins are charred. Remove their skin. Halve the peppers and chillies, remove the seeds, and coarsely chop.
2.    Place the peppers and chillies in a food processor, along with spring onions, tomatoes, spinach and seasoning. Blend to a puree, with a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary.
3.    Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, and fry the onions and garlic until soft but not brown.
4.    Add the mushrooms, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the beans, stock, and the green vegetable puree, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
5.    Add the broccoli and dried spices and herbs, cover and cook for a further 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
6.    Ladle into individual bowls, and serve with as many of the suggested accompaniments as desired.

ginger-beer-with-lime

The key to the success of this recipe is the quality of ginger. Use very fresh, young pink Caribbean ginger that is sometimes available in supermarkets, or else buy it from African and Caribbean grocers or markets. Makes 6 to 7 x 70cl bottles.

4.5 litres/ 1 gallon water
100g/ 4 oz fresh ginger, peeled
1.5 to 2 lb/ 675g to 900g white or light brown sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon uncooked white rice

1.    Bring the water to the boil.
2.    Meanwhile finely crush the ginger in a mortar or a food processor and place it in a bowl. Add the sugar, and lime juice and zest, and mix well.
3.    Pour the boiling water over, and add the grains of rice.
4.    Place the mixture into a stoneware jar, and allow to stand in a cool place for a week. Give the liquid a vigorous stir or shake once every day.
5.    After a week, strain and bottle the ginger beer.
6.    Refrigerate for 1 or 2 weeks.
7.    Serve in tall glasses with lots of ice, slices or lime and, if you like, a splash of rum.

congee-in-chinese-bowl

Savoury porridges – called congee – are widely eaten by the Chinese (and other Asians) for breakfast. In their plain, bland form, they are also given to the sick, the elderly and children. However, this humble peasant dish transforms itself into something altogether sexier when served with a variety of flavourful accessories. Here, the Malaysian-style congee is accompanied by traditional garnishes, but you can experiment and use any toppings you like – such as sautéed mushrooms, cooked red aduki or black soy beans, fried tofu pieces, and so on. Comfort food has never been more colourful.  Serves 2.

For the porridge:
1.2 litres/ 2 pints lightly flavoured unsalted vegetable stock
450 ml/ 15 fl oz measuring jug filled with short-grain Chinese rice
1 tin coconut milk, well-stirred
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sesame oil

For the accessories:
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely shredded
½-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely shredded
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon chilli oil
100 g/ 4 oz tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
25g/ 1 oz roasted peanuts, crushed
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled, and cut into 8 pieces each

1.    Boil the stock in a large saucepan and add the rice, coconut milk, salt and sesame oil.
2.    Bring the mixture back to the boil and stir. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes until the rice is cooked and the mixture has thickened. Stir the porridge occasionally during the cooking process to prevent from sticking. Add more water if necessary – the porridge should have the consistency of custard.
3.    Ladle the porridge into pasta bowls. Surround the bowls with the accessories in little individual dipping plates, and add them in according to taste.

sausage-mushroom-casserole-too

This richly-flavoured, hearty casserole is quintessentially British. It makes a filling meal on a frosty or foggy night. Serves 6.

2 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
12 vegetarian sausages, such as Lincolnshire or Cumberland style
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
2 celery sticks, peeled and sliced
1 medium carrot, trimmed, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons plain white flour
2 tablespoons tomato puree
330ml bottle Guinness, or another dark ale or beer
300 ml/ 11 fl oz vegetable or lightly-flavoured mushroom stock
10 oz/ 250g chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 level tablespoon Marmite
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1.    Heat the oil in a heavy casserole over medium heat. Fry the veggie sausages evenly on all sides until brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Alternatively, you can grill the sausages while you are getting on with the rest of the dish.
2.    In the same oil, fry the onions, celery and carrots. Cook for around 7 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not browned.
3.    Add the flour and tomato puree, and cook for a minute.
4.    Pour in the Guinness, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 minutes until the liquid is reduced slightly.
5.    Add the stock, and bring back to the boil. Add the cooked sausages, mushrooms, Marmite, thyme and seasoning.
6.    Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked and the sauce has thickened.
7.    Garnish with parsley, and serve with mashed potatoes and steamed winter vegetables, such as savoy cabbage, swedes, brussels sprouts, kale or broccoli.

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