Saturday, 30 March 2013

Comforting, Spicy Korean Gojuchang Tofu Stir Fry

I was inspired to make a dish like this by a small Korean cafe named "Jiki", where I often go on days where I haven't been able to prepare a lunchbox. I have tried and loved many of their hot food dishes, but they have a spicy tofu and vegetable one that is just out of this world. I didn't have a recipe for this so it isn't exactly like Jiki's but it was very tasty nonetheless. 

Korean food is, for me anyway, warm and comforting - perfect for an icy winter's day. I will definitely adventure further into Korean cooking - one of the wonderful things about living in England is how we have all these opportunities to pinch traditions from other cultures. People settle here from all over the world and, in becoming Britons themselves, broaden our own culture and variety of experience. 

In my case it's always about the food! Ok, sometimes it's about the clothes too. Plus it's fun to celebrate new feast days. Actually, Koreans celebrate a lunar new year as well as the traditional Gregorian one and personally I am all up for dressing in Hanbok, learning to play Yut Nori and eating Tteokguk next Jan 31st if anyone else is...

Ok, so first thing first, cut a block of firm tofu into sizeable cubes and heat up a good glug of toasted sesame oil in a frying pan. When the oil is really hot place the peices of tofu in and, after a minute or so, turn onto another side - keep doing this until the tofu is crispy all over, it really doesn't take that long. Empty out onto kitchen roll and leave to cool.

To make up the sauce mix together 2 tbsp Korean Gochujang paste, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp mirin and 2 cloves of minced garlic.
Prepare your vegetables by chopping a whole bunch of spring onions into about 4 lengthwise and a lump of ginger (as much as you like, go by preference - I put loads in) into thin slices, put the white parts of the spring onions and the ginger to one side.

Alongside the green parts of the onions, slice some mushrooms, a bell pepper and add some beansprouts - this will work with any veg though, use what you have available and cut into a size that will cook quickly.

When you are ready, reheat the pan still containing the sesame oil from cooking the tofu and, when hot, add the white onion and ginger. Cook until visibly softened before adding the rest of the vegetables and cooking until everything is almost done. Finally, pour in the sauce and stir through thoroughly - you only need to cook the sauce until it's hot and the raw edge to it has gone, it doesn't take much time.

* Note - if you are greedy like us, and not veggie, you can add in some cooked, peeled king prawns at this point. They go really well with the tofu and the spicy sauce. I actually think this sauce would be great with meatier vegetables like aubergines, chicken or even chunky white fish - it's very versatile.

Serve hot, with plain rice and kimchi.


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Steak & Portobello Dinner with Blue Cheese

Quite often I wonder whether a dish is worth posting about, because it's so simple or quick to make, but I've been told that these can be some of the most helpful posts so I guess it is worth it after all!

So, last year I signed up for a meat box scheme*, which is a bit like a veg box scheme except... well there's the obvious difference. This is a big box full of excellent quality, organic, seasonal meat with the highest welfare standards and decent hanging time (where appropriate). Just like the veg, the cuts and type of meat you receive change with the seasons and supports farmers in selling all of an animal rather than focusing on just the most popular cuts. You can also choose to include offal and charcuterie, even pet mince for the cats. It's like having a proper butcher who also delivers to your door.

The meat arrives as a mixture of fresh and frozen, some of it you might need to eat that week but the majority of it is freezable. I'm finding it quite handy to have a little variety of cuts in my freezer, ready to use at just 24 hours notice (or 2 days for a large joint). Anyway, a delivery came last Friday with two juicy-looking rump steaks, hence this supper was born.

Preheat the oven to the hottest temperature it can do - about 220. Cut a small pile of potatoes into wedges (again, mine are bleu d'auvergny in the picture, hence the dark colour) and pop into a baking tray with a sprinkle of dried rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper.

In another baking tray, lay out portobello mushrooms that have been brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with a very small pinch of garlic granules, plus some halved cherry tomatoes with a sprinkle of thyme.

Put the potatoes in the oven first, for ten minutes or so, before adding the mushroom tray and turning the heat down to 180. Put a griddle on to heat, or a frying pan if you don't have one - don't put oil in it.

To prepare the steaks (in this case rump), make sure they are already at room temperature before you start, then rub them with oil, salt and fresh pepper. When the griddle is hot lay the steaks in and do not move them until the underside is cooked or they will stick!

Slice your favourite blue cheese and place on the plates, personally I love gorgonzola and roquefort. Turn the oven off but leave the vegetables in there while you remove the steaks to a board and give them five minutes to rest (don't be tempted to skip this bit or they will be tough). Then add the steak to the plates and arrange the crispy wedges, mushrooms and tomatoes in the remaining space, along with some token salad, in our case a little winter purslane. Nom.
* Here, in alphabetical order, are some organic meat boxes you might like to investigate. I can vouch from personal experience for the high quality of the meat from three out of the four. If anyone has genuine feedback about Riverford Farms, or any other organic meat box scheme, then I would be pleased to hear from you:

Abel & Cole
Laverstock Park Farm
Riverford Farms
Well Hung Meat Co (this is the one I get)


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Cheese & Onion Pasties (if you'd rather not shop at Gregg's...)

Ok, so I'm going to be completely honest. Last Sunday, coming home from my friend's house, I had the most almighty hangover. 
I took the bus back to my local high street where my husband met me. Please bear in mind, before you judge me too harshly, that I was truly suffering! As I alighted from the bus I noticed that there was a greggs opposite.
The ghost of my teenage self spoke to me: "A pasty! That will sort you right out..."

MY TEENAGE SELF LIED. I bought cheese and onion pasties for both of us and eagerly took my first bite... of lukewarm, flavourless, textureless, over-seasoned, floury mush. Yuk. As we walked home I said that I could come up with a better pasty than that! So I did. Here it is, enjoy... with or without the hangover.

Cut three new potatoes into quarters and put on to boil until tender. I had the bleu d'auvergne variety, so that's why they are purple! Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a flat baking tray with oiled greaseproof paper.

Finely chop a large onion and a big stick of celery. Heat up a little oil in a frying pan and, if you like, snip in a slice of bacon (seriously one is more than enough) and cook until opaque before adding the onion and celery. Cook on a low heat to soften without browning.

After the onion and celery has softened add in a big handful of thinly sliced mushrooms and continue to cook on a low heat. On the side, grate a nice big pile of mature cheddar and a slightly smaller pile of parmesan. Then drain the potatoes, wait for the water to evaporate, and chop them into little tiny cubes before adding them to the vegetable mixture in the frying pan.

Once everything is cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle over all the cheese then mix it in well, grind in lots of fresh black pepper and season to taste.
Cut a sheet of puff pastry into two rectangles, and place on the prepared baking tray. Divide the filling between the two sections, then fold the pastry over and press the seams together with a little beaten egg. Gently score the tops of the pasties and glaze with the rest of the egg.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until they are crisp and browned, and serve with a little salad and some really good ketchup (I like Mr Organic's version).

Don't be afraid to mess about with the ingredients - use what you have, that's what I did. I have plans to try doing another batch with mashed potato, onion and cheesy bechamel, which would result in a more traditional high street version.    

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Jansson's Temptation (or The Scandi Fainted with Delight)

I wanted to try this out for ages but it wasn't until very recently that I found a shop selling the requisite Swedish anchovies, which are actually sprats pickled in a quite sweet brine. Swedish ansjovis (sprats) are, I think, reasonably good on the marine conservation stakes, being mature fish when they are caught.

They are also pretty healthy, containing lots of omega oils. If you frame it with the high levels of vitamin A in the cream, plus vitamin C and B6 in the potato, this isn't a totally unhealthy dinner... but saying that, it's carb heavy and contains double cream so it's probably not an everyday dinner! This would go really well with a lovely side of steamed spinach or broccoli.

So first up, dice two onions and saute them in a little oil and a little butter. While that's cooking, thinly slice several potatoes - it's important that they are really thin or they won't cook through.

Open up the tin of ansjovis and cut each one in half, then butter an oven proof dish and preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the frying pan off the heat and divide out half of the onions, you'll use half now and half in the creamy sauce later on.

Put a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the dish, sprinkle with onion and then lay peices of fish over the top. The, another layer of potatoes, more onion, more fish and so on until all the fish, potatoes and half of the onions are used up.

Put the frying pan back on the heat with the second half of the onions still in there, add half a pot of crème fraîche and half a pot of double cream, stir until melted together and season well with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. Pour over the top of the potato-onion-fish layers.

Then the crispy topping - I use crackers, as in cheese and biscuits! Left over crackers, water biscuits and so on are perfect all crumbled up and sprinkled over the top. Dot with lots of butter and then bung in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Poke it with a fork to see if the potatoes are done.

* I bought my ansjovis when I went to the Scandinavian Kitchen shop one Saturday. The base inspiration for the recipe above came from Scandalicious by Signe Johansen

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Classic Kedgeree (aka When Butter Attacks)

Oh, I know I should feel bad, over 5 months since my last post. If you make this dish though, I feel sure you'll forgive me. It is inexcusably bad for you but what the hell!

I first made this, gosh, around 10 years ago when I was given Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, which just goes to show that life, sometimes, imitates art. As always, I play it by ear now when I make it, but my favourite Discworld witch (Nanny is a hedonethicist too I think!) was definitely the inspiration for this filling brunch.

Ok, so the first thing you need is a big ole fillet of smoked fish. Tartrazine yellow is not a colour I associate with a tasty fish dinner, so I tend to buy the undyed variety. I understand that some fishmongers sell naturally yellowed fish (undyed but turned yellow from smoking in a certain way), if you find that then buy it for some colourful fun! Vegetarian? Try chickpeas or lentils instead, they work very nicely with the same accompaniments.

Cook a cup of rice, either the old fashioned way or using a ricebot, at the same time boil up a couple of eggs until hard boiled. When the rice is almost ready, put the fish into a deep frying pan with a half and half mix of water and milk; the liquid should come to halfway up the side of the fish.

Poach the fish, skin side down, until almost cooked through, then flip over and cook for a further couple of minutes to finish it off. The fish should be opaque, but still tender. Drain the fish and place it to one side - don't leave unattended in the presence of greedy cats.
Chop up an onion, I like purple in this because they are sweet but any will do, and a good handful of mushrooms if you have any. Aubergine or any leafy greens work with this too. Heat an obscene amount of butter, as much as you dare, in the frying pan (wiped clean) and gently fry the vegetables. 

When cooked, sprinkled over a good tablespoon or more, to taste, of curry powder, plus seasoning and give it 30 seconds to heat up before adding all the rice and coating well in the aromatic buttery sauce. Finally, flake in the fish, taking care to remove any bones, and top with chopped egg.