Recipe: Chilli Beef & Red Miso Udon

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Mondays have become de facto noodle-night in our house thanks to how easy it is to cram a load of chilli, ginger and garlic into a big bowl of ramen or udon and put the weekend behind us while catching up on Boardwalk Empire.   Due to the illegal/highly unethical nature of weekend workouts, Monday is the day to get back on the T25, so loads of noodles and vegetables provides good fuel for that.

If you’ve ever used one of those Stir Fry kits you get form the supermarket – a big bag of cabbage and beansprouts, egg noodles and a sachet of gloopy sauce for about four quid – you’ll know that they kind of suck – the vegetables are all filler no killer, the sauce is cloying, and the noodles end up leaving their impression on the base of your wok, and reducing to mush in the meal.

I went to Fuji Hero last week and noted that they overcome this problem dousing the dish in curry oil, which tasted brilliant but went against everything Noodle-night stands for.  Rather than lubing my udon with oil, I made a little bit of stock using Miso paste, mirin and soy to stop them sticking to the wok – as a bonus, it helped cook them through properly, something else which is difficult when cooking such thick noodles quickly on a high heat.

I used mange tout and baby corn this time because they were in the reduced aisle at the supermarket, but feel free to experiment with the vegetables – just be really careful not to overcook them, a couple of minutes is plenty.  The same goes for the beansprouts, you want them to provide nice bit of crunch and texture rather than going limp and sagging all over the place, so put them in when everything else is cooked, take it off the hob and let the residual heat bring it all home.

Any ingredients that don’t look familiar will be available in the world food section of any decent-sized supermarket, (including vacuum-sealed Udon which are much cheaper than name-brand versions or the bags from the vegetable section) or any nearby Chinese supermarkets which you should familiarise yourself with as soon as possible because they are a goldmine.

Serves 2.  Preparation 10 Minutes, Cooking 10 Minutes


Ingredients


For the beef:

  • 300g Shaved steak/Stir fry beef
  • 2 Tbsp Soy
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin (or Rice Wine Vinegar)
  • 2 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Clove Garlic, crushed
  • Half a Red chilli, chopped

  • 1 Carrot, julienne
  • Handful of mange tout
  • Handful of baby corn
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, julienne
  • Half a tin of water chestnuts
For the noodles:

  • 1 tsp Red Miso paste
  • 1 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Mirin
  • 1 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp Water
  • 2 portions of straight to wok Udon noodles
  • Big handful of Beansprouts
  • Spring onions, Red Chilli and Sesame Seeds to garnish
Method:

  1. Marinade the beef in a mixture of the Soy, Mirin, Brown Sugar, Garlic and Chilli – the longer the better.  If you can do this before work and leave it in the fridge all day then brilliant, but who’s that organised?  Worst case scenario, just leave it marinading for as long as it takes you to julienne the vegetables.
  2. Fry the beef in some sesame oil for about a minute, or until it’s seared.  Add the vegetables, ginger and water chestnuts and cook for another minute or so, remembering not to overcook it.  Transfer this into another pan.
  3. Add the miso paste, soy, Mirin, sesame oil and water to the wok you’ve just used for the beef and mix it all together while bringing it to a simmer.  Break up the noodles and cook them in the wok for a minute or two.
  4. Toss the beef and vegetables with the noodles for a minute to heat them up and disperse all the ingredients evenly.  Take off the heat and stir the beansprouts through.
  5. Dish it out and garnish with sesame seeds, red chilli for a bit of clean heat, and spring onions for freshness.

Recipe: Crab, Scallop and Black Pudding Jambalaya

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I thought I’d have come up with a recipe for Jambalaya a long time ago, just to give me an excuse to say such a brilliant name over and over again until the word lost all meaning.  The final motivation came after a particularly somber Monday which dragged on for three-quarters of an eternity; a Ned Stark of a day that incessantly reminds you that Winter is coming, but all of the fun bits of it are weeks away yet; a day that somebody had imported into VSCO Cam, slid the temperature setting down to -8 and given everything and everyone a greyish blue hue.
Being a New Orleans twist on Paella, Jambalaya seemed like perfect antidote – carbs and warm spices, scattered with oily indulgences and things from the sea.  Traditionally the recipe calls for chicken and prawns – I don’t think chicken really pulls its weight in a dish with such strong flavours though, so I went with the classic gastro-pub combination of black pudding and scallops which I flash-fried before adding to the Jambalaya pot.  This made it a couple of quid cheaper, as well as making it seem more indulgent.  The supermarket didn’t have any prawns that I liked the look of either, so I substituted them for crab meat, which along with the chorizo cooks down and assimilates itself with the rest of the dish perfectly – present but unassuming.

I happened to have a half-inch of Old Bay seasoning left in the tin which has served me well for almost two years, so I was able to stick faithfully to tradition in that sense, but if you can’t get your hands on any then you can make a pretty good imitation by combining 2 parts paprika with 1 part celery salt, and a pinch each of mustard powder, black pepper, bay, allspice, and chilli flakes.

Ingredients:
(serves 4)

Oil
1 Onion, diced
2 Celery sticks, diced
1 Carrot, diced
Half a chorizo, cut into half pound-coins
2-3 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
2 Peppers
200g Brown Rice
1 tin of Plum Tomatoes
400ml stock
Half a black pudding
4 Scallops, sliced into 3 pieces and flash fried
100g Crab Meat
Chives, to top

Method:

  1. Fry the diced vegetables in oil slowly, until they turn translucent.  Add the peppers and the chorizo until it starts to swell and you noticed the speckles of fat begin to melt down.  Stir in the Old Bay seasoning and cook for a couple of minutes, giving everything chance to get a good coating.
  2. Stir in the rice and heat it for about a minute while you open the tin of tomatoes and drain the excess liquid off.  Add them to the pan, along with enough stock to cover everything.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cover.
  3. Flash-fry the black pudding and scallops in a pan, and add them to the pot when the rice is almost done, but there’s still a decent bit of liquid.  This should take about 12 minutes depending on the type of rice.  If you need to, add more stock at this point.
  4. Stir in the crab meat, and cook with the lid off for another couple of minutes, stirring regularly.
Sprinkle plenty of chives or spring onions on the top, a bit of green to cut through the richness will be very welcome.  Serve with grilled corn on the cob, or cut the kernels off and serve on top of the jambalaya.
As a side-note, I’m submitting this recipe for a competition Co-Op are holding, where the prize is getting filmed cooking my recipe just like a chef off the telly.  You can enter here, but don’t feel like you have to, because I really would like to win.

Eating Peru

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I read an article the other day which stated “Foodie Holidays Popular Among Young Travellers”, which suggested that handsome, sophisticated globetrotters aged 18-34 (check, check and check) are choosing holiday destinations specifically because they wanted to try the food in that location.

I hate the thought of being predictable (although I do like the thought of being considered young, so that part was fine) and yet, the results of the survey had a point – food influences most of the decisions I make on a daily basis, so of course it’s going to hold some sway when deciding on a holiday destination.

I don’t know which Millionaire playboys they got to take this survey though, whose thought process goes “I’d like to eat so-and-so, therefore I’m going to jet off to its country of origin” – Kanye West?  Maybe, but his days of ticking the 18-34 age box are long gone.  A far more likely scenario is “I’d like to eat so-and-so, therefore I’m going to go to Aldi and buy most of the ingredients, and then go to Morrisons on the way home and see if they’ve got any suitable substitute ingredients in their world food aisle”

So that’s what I did…

South American food has been getting a lot of publicity recently – perhaps a result of the increased tourism leading up to the World Cup earlier this Summer, or maybe just because South American food is ace – with Peruvian cuisine touted as the hot new buzz food in the UK.  Being an impressionable 18-34 year old I wanted to try it immediately, so with the absence of any other options, I had a go at it myself.

Ceviche


Ceviche is the figurehead of Peruvian food – a cross between sashimi and prawn cocktail, where the fish is “cooked” in an acidic marinade rather than with heat.  The key when eating any type of raw fish is to make sure it’s really fresh, so maybe this isn’t one to try if you forgot to send your fishmonger a Christmas card this year.

For my ceviche I split the marinade – known in Peru as Tiger’s Milk – in half and made two dishes, Sea Bass and Coconut Prawn.

For the Tiger’s Milk:

8 Limes
1 Red Onion, finely diced
1 Chilli, halved and deseeded – I used a Scotch bonnet
Small bunch of Coriander Leaves
Half a stick of celery, diced

  1. Season a bowl with salt and pepper, and rub the chilli into the seasoning to release the flavours.
  2. Squeeze the limes into the bowl, and stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Leave to infuse for 15-30 minutes while you prepare the fish.

Butterfly and devein the Tiger Prawns just to ensure they get “cooked” all the way through, and cut the Sea Bass into evenly shaped pieces – about 2-3cm – and arrange the fish and prawns in separate dishes.

Strain the Tigers Milk, making sure to put the herbs and onion to one side, this makes a really flavourful salsa if you add a few chopped cherry tomatoes to it.

Pour the Tigers Milk over the fish and prawns, and leave for 15-20 minutes, until they appear cooked throughout.

For the Sea Bass


Remove the fish and put 2-3 tbsp of the Tigers Milk in a blender with a deseeded Yellow Pepper.  Serve with this yellow pepper sauce, crushed plantains, and the salsa you made earlier.

For the Coconut Prawns


Remove the prawns when cooked, and mix 2-3 tbps of their Tigers Milk with the same amount of Coconut Cream.  Serve with shaved coconut and some salad leaves.  This is essentially a really fresh, posh Prawn Cocktail.

Tallarines Verdes

After watching True Detective, I didn’t think it would be possible to find “Green Spaghetti”-anything appetising – until I found out about this dish.  A South-American friend summed up Peruvian food logic by saying “We can’t afford all of the expensive ingredients in this dish, so we’ll make our own version of it which is even better”, which is exactly what has happened here.  
By making a few alterations and additions to a classic Pesto recipe – swapping out most of the basil for Spinach, cutting back on the Pine Nuts and adding salty, oily cheese – Tallarines Verdes is a completely new, delicious dish which far exceeds the meal it was trying to replicate.
What you’ll need


1 Bag of Baby Spinach
Small Handful of Basil
1 Block of Queso Freso – although Feta is a fine substitute
2 Cloves of Garlic
Small handful of Pine Nuts
4 Tbsp Olive Oil

Spaghetti

  1. Toast the pine nuts for a minute or two until they start releasing oils and turning golden brown.
  2. Add them to the blender with the Spinach, Basil, Queso and Garlic, blend until smooth.
  3. While still blending, add the Olive Oil in a constant pour.
  4. Add pepper, and salt only if needed – Queso Fresco and Feta are very salty already.

That’s all you need to do to the sauce.  Just cook your pasta, drain it, and add it back into the pan, then combine the sauce into it over a low heat until warmed throughout.  Serve with shavings of Manchego and crushed pine nuts.

Alternatively if you’re a little squeamish to eat Prawn ceviche, marinade them in the Tigers Milk for 15 minutes, flash fry, and serve them on top of your Tallarines Verdes to give the salty, oily noodles a citrus kick.

Recipe: Lentejas Volcán (Lentils with Octopus, Chorizo and Sweet Potato)

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A few weeks ago I was approached to take part in a themed cooking competition for Villa Plus, where I’d square up against some other cooks to come up with a recipe which I felt represented a particular European holiday destination.

When presented with the list of locations to choose from, I realised my knowledge of European islands is severely lacking; in the end what swung me towards choosing Lanzarote was the fact that my Nan and Granddad went on holiday there when I was 7, and brought me back a pretty sweet selection of bootleg Nike t-shirts.  This personal experience of the place offered a limited point of reference, so I got my research on.

The thing that immediately struck me about Lanzarote was the terrain – being a volcanic island it has vast expanses of dark grey terrain; basalt rock formed by cooled rock lava.  Combined with flashes of deep red sand and rock and aquamarine pools it had an other-worldly appearance like nothing I’ve seen before – far from the sea of characterless Brits-abroad hotel-complexes I’d conjured in my head.

Looking into Lanzarote’s typical cuisine revealed that Lentejas is popular over there – a lentil dish best described as a regional take on classic Spanish paella.  Its laid-back format of lentils with seafood, meat and vegetables gave me plenty of freedome to put a personal spin on the dish, by incorporating elements which represented the island’s volcanic character.

The imaginatively-named Lentejas Volcán (Volcano Lentils) uses almost-black, earthy-tasting Puy lentils as a nod to the island’s terrain; Chorizo and sweet potato add magma-like flashes of dark red and orange, as well as contributing an amazing smokey-sweet flavour to the dish.

With Lanzarote being surrounded by ocean, I couldn’t leave seafood out of the recipe –  Octopus gives the dish an exotic touch (which like the rest of the ingredients, I bought from the perpetually exotic market in Leeds city center), but if you’re squeamish and don’t like the idea of gnawing on tentacles then prawns or langoustines are a good alternative.

Because it’s so cheap (The two big portions I made came to just over £2 each, if you’re not into seafood then it’d come to about £1.30) and easy to make, this is a great social one to make when you’ve got friends over for tea.  Take the pan you made it in over to the table and let everybody dig in, be warned though that they’ll want to lick their plates clean afterwards – save them that indignity by providing a loaf of crusty bread to mop up the juices with.


Ingredients

  • 1 Small Octopus (About 200g)
  • 1 Medium Chorizo Sausage
  • 250g (Prepared Weight) Puy Lentils
  • 1 Onion, Diced
  • Half a Sweet Potato, Diced
  • A Handful of Garden Peas

for the dressing

  • 2 Tbsp Rapeseed Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • Small handful of Coriander leaves, finely chopped
Method
  1. Prepare the octopus by cutting the tentacles into inch-sized chunks.  For the rest of the flesh, cut into inch-squares and score in a criss cross pattern.  Your fishmonger will do this for you if you ask them nicely.  Blanch in a pan of boiling water for 90 seconds – no more, no less! – rinse under cold water, and leave to one side until later.
  2. Soften the onion and potato in a pan on a medium-low heat.  While you’re doing this, chop your coriander really finely and mix it with the rapeseed oil and lemon juice to form your dressing.
  3. When the onion is translucent and starting to brown ever so slightly on the edges, add slices of chorizo and continue to cook until the fat in the chorizo starts to melt and you can see it slightly caramelise.  I added a handful of Garden Peas at this point, to give a variety of texture and a bit of freshness to the finished dish.

  4. Stir in the lentils and give them a good stir until they’re warm through, and then add the cooked octopus for just long enough to give it a coating of the juices.
  5. Drizzle with the dressing, and serve with an extra wedge of lemon for squeezing.

Recipe: Balsamic Beetroot Stew

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Regular readers will have seen me sing the praises of Leeds Market Delivered, who I’ve been buying my Fruit & Veg from for a couple of weeks now.  One of the things I like most about the service is the fact that Vegetables are sold as hampers; you choose how much to spend and they send you a corresponding amount of produce, it turns meal times into a play-at-home version of Ready Steady Cook.

In the week I try to eat as sensibly as possible to justify my indulgence in Farmers Markets and restaurants at weekends.  Having received a load of root vegetables from Market Delivered, I set about coming up with a nutritious stew, with roasted Beetroots at the helm.


Ingredients

  • 4 Beetroots
  • 2 Parsnips
  • 4 Carrots
  • 1 Medium White Onion
  • 2 Sticks of Celery
  • 1 Litre Vegetable Stock
  • 3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (more or less to taste)
  • Knob of butter
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Clove of Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Cinnamon

Method

1. Finely dice your onion and celery, chop the clove of garlic, and fry these with a knob of butter over a low heat until soft.  This should take about 10-15 minutes, but the longer you can cook them for at the start, the more flavour you’ll get from them in the final dish.

2. Peel your root vegetables and chop them into large chunks, at a jaunty, blog-friendly angle.

 3. Add your roots to the softened onion and celery, pour a glug of olive oil on top of everything and give it a big stir until everything’s coated.

 4. Roast everything in a 200°c oven for 40 minutes.

5. This is completely optional, but at this point I added a few squares of really dark chocolate.  The cocoa works well with the balsamic vinegar, and the chocolate give a nice thick gloss to the gravy.  Feel free to skip this if it isn’t to your taste though.
6. Add the vegetable stock and balsamic vinegar, and bring to the boil on the hob.  Cover, and cook in the oven again at 200°c for a further 30 minutes.

You can serve this as you would any other stew, with some nice crusty bread to mop up the excess gravy.  Personally I paired it with a cold Minted Bulgur Wheat & Chick Pea salad, with some Apple & Celery slaw for a contrast of flavours.

Recipe: Smoked Haddock & Corn Chowder

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I’ve articulated my love for soup previously on these pages; lauding its lunchtime prowess, but it often gets overlooked as a contender for an evening meal in favour of something with a bit more substance.  This recipe for a spicy, smokey haddock and corn chowder – in no small part inspired by my missing out of a similar offering by Fish& at the weekend’s Belgrave Street Feast – is the epitome of substance, with big morsels of smoked fish and a satisfying melee of hearty vegetables lurking in a thick, nuanced liquor.

Another good thing about the chowder is that it’s as healthy as you want to make it – swap some of the milk for single cream and serve with a big crusty cob if you’d prefer a comforting treat, or if you want to boost your vitamin intake then there’s nothing stopping you adding a couple of diced carrots or leeks, and forgoing the potato.


Ingredients

  • 2 Smoked Haddock Fillets
  • 1 tin of Sweetcorn
  • 2 Onions, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of Celery, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 Potato, 1cm-2cm dice
  • 1 litre of Stock (I used half/half vegetable & fish)
  • 1 pint of Milk
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • Juice of half a lime

Method

  1. Sautee the onions and celery in oil and a little butter until translucent and brown – this should take about 10-15 minutes over a low heat.  Deseed the chilli, dice half of it and add it to the onion and celery mixture.  Cook it gently for a minute or so, but only until it’s absorbed some of the oils from the pan, it shouldn’t change colour.
  2. Add the stock and lime juice to the onions and celery, and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, poach the haddock fillets in a pan containing the milk, bay leaves and a few whole peppercorns.  
  3. While the haddock poaches, toast the sweetcorn in a dry pan until the kernels begin to brown and char on the edges.  Don’t be tempted to add any oil to the pan, as they release a lovely rich oil when heated up.  Add them to the stock soup stock.
  4. After simmering for about ten minutes you’ll notice the flesh become tender to the touch, and the edges of the skin starting to peel away slightly.  Remove the fillets from the milky broth and place the pan ro one side.  Flake the haddock flesh off the skin – it should fall off without too much coercing – and into the stock pot.

  5. Strain the peppercorns, bay leaves and milk skin from the poaching broth, and add the liquid into the stock.  Add the diced potato and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the potato’s surface areas starts to release some floury starch and thicken the chowder, but before it breaks down completely.
  6. Serve garnished with shards of toasted tortillas, a wedge of lime, a dollop of quark (or sour cream or creme fraisch, depending on your preference), and a sprinkle of thinly-sliced green chilli or cayenne pepper.