Monday, 30 January 2012

Winter Paella with Chinese Sausage and Mussels

The Jellied Eel magazine is holding a "Love Your Local Sausage" competition, together with London Farmers' Market, to find our best local banger. The ones nominated for Pimlico Farmers' Market (which I work at) are Downland Pig's Breakfast Maarmalade, your traditional fat pork sausage with a hint of sweetness, and 12 Green Acres'' Cooking Chorizo, a wonderful British substitute for the famous Spanish sausage. I'm excited for them, and Cheryl from the market has also asked if I can try to share some kind of recipe involving sausage, in the spirit of this event.

I did this paella a few weeks after I came back from Spain, because I was kind of missing the sun there, and I've got Spanish goodies from the trip that I wanted to use up, e.g. the vintagey-designed pretty tin of paprika sitting on my table. I didn't have chorizo then, and because it's the dead of winter and I try to eat seasonally, there were no peppers or fresh tomatoes or green beans or peas. Instead, I made use of what I had on hand, Chinese sausage lap cheong (a traditional sweet cured chorizo-style sausage), mussels, onions, canned tomatoes and lots of fresh parsley. Of course, this would be a brilliant recipe to try the Cooking Chorizo with, so you can give it a go with that!

Winter Paella with Chinese Sausage and Mussels
serves 2-3
200g of paella rice
1 onion, chopped
1/2 can of tomatoes (400g tin)
500ml of stock i.e. water i.e. the reserved mussels cooking liquor
1/2 chinese sausage (or cooking chorizo)
500g fresh mussels
pinch of saffron (the most expensive thing by weight in my house currently)
1 tsp smoked paprika
unrefined sea salt, to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

to serve
chopped fresh parsley

1. Clean the mussels, scrub well and remove the beard. Throw away those that don't close after tapping, they're dead. Add mussels to a pot, add cold water, and cover and bring to a boil. Cook until the mussels open, it takes only 3 min or so. Drain, discarding those that don't open. To make your stock, just add the saffron strands to the hot reserved cooking liquor and let infuse.

These were mussels from the Jennings at the farmers' market.
Mussels is another seafood we should eat more of, it's cheap and sustainable and yum.

2. Add the chinese sausage to a hot shallow frying pan (mine was about 12" wide for that number of servings) and let it cook till lightly charred and the fat oozes out. Drain and set aside.

I know people just add the chorizo after the sofrito but I like to get the lap cheong-flavour-infused lard out from the first.

3. The all-important sofrito. Add the olive oil to the fat and sweat the onions, then add the canned tomatoes and paprika and keep frying till it reduces to a thick paste and becomes darker in colour.

4. Add the rice and stir for a couple of min till well-coated. Now add the stock, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Make sure the rice is spread out well i.e. all under the surface of the liquid. Leave it alone and DO NOT STIR (it's the opposite of risotto). You want a crust "soccarat" to form at the bottom.

6. When all the liquid has been absorbed, arrange the mussels and chinese sausage artistically over the rice. Cover the pan with foil and turn off the heat, and let the rice finish steam-cooking, for about 10 min.

7. Serve straight from the pan with a big squeeze of lemon and scatter of parsley.

This easily cured my winter blues. They say one eats with the eye before the mouth, and just looking at all the colours made me think of summer and sunshine! It wasn't the usual proper summer paella, but the deliciously greasy and savoury chinese sausage, the sweet mussels, the fresh fragrance of parsley made up a beautiful substitute. The star of the show however, is ,of course, the rice, dyed a happy golden yellow and plump with all the flavours from the mussel stock, paprika, saffron, tomatoes and sausage.

The chinese sausage added a sweeter dimension to the paella, kind of like chinese claypot rice, but sub with the chorizo for a more authentic spanish feel. Oh and Londoners, please go have a little wander around the farmers' markets and vote for your favourite sausage(: The contest ends in about 3 weeks time. You stand a chance to win prizes too including a meal for two at a top London restaurant and a bag of the top 5 bangers (!!!)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Haggis Pie with Swede Crust (A Scottish Shepherd's Pie?)

It was Burns Night yesterday. That probably doesn't mean anything much to anyone outside of Scotland, but I'm always fascinated by the many odd festivals and days here in the UK, and really, any reason to celebrate something is worth grabbing onto, what with all the January blues. I tried haggis when I first went to Glasgow, and the sound of it- a sausage/savoury pudding made of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, oatmeal, spices, wrapped in a sheep's stomach- may have put most people off, but I totally loved it. Haggis, neeps (mashed turNIPS, i.e. swede) and tatties (mashed poTAToes).The dish, and the name, and the way the scottish say it with their thick unfathomable accents.

This is a combination of that with another great English dish, the shepherd's pie, hence "Scottish shepherd's pie". I was thinking of calling it a poor shepherd's pie, offal being a lot cheaper than mince, but that didn't sound right.

Haggis Mushroom Pie with Swede Crust
part of a haggis, about 300g, removed from casing (a whole haggis is massive)
1 swede, about 500g, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
handful of mushrooms, chopped
2 generous tbsp grassfed butter
unrefined sea salt, black pepper (to taste, be generous)

1. For the crust, boil the chopped swede in salted water till tender, drain, and mash. Season generously with salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of butter.

I love that shocking orange-yellow colour that cooked swede turns

2. For the filling, saute onions in another tbsp of butter till softened and golden-translucent. Crumble in the haggis, cook for a while more, before adding in the mushrooms to sear and sweat.

3. Put filling into an oven-safe baking dish, or many mini ones, top with the mashed swede, and dot with remaining butter. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 20 minutes till the top is nicely golden.

Because haggis is made with the addition of oatmeal and lots of black pepper and spices like nutmeg and oatmeal, this pie filling definitely had some very more-ish intense flavours going on. The sweet swede was brilliant against its savouriness, the reason why I go mostly for the neeps over the tatties when I eat haggis, and the reason why I decided to ditch the usual mashed potato crust. Swedes are especially good this time of the year, so I would happily have them plainly mashed with lots of butter and sea salt.

But do it with potatoes if you will! Pies of any crust, filling, or nationality are great anyway. See Indian shepherd's pie, with a masala kheema filling, made about a year ago (:

This recipe is also featured as part of the column for the London Farmers' Market in East End Life!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Stuffed Squid Baked in Sambal Chilli

I got a squid from the farmers' market the other day, a whole fresh squid, not the chopped up rings you get in the freezer section of Tesco's. Pretty exciting. Had no idea how to clean it myself, but Susan Eats London has this brilliant tutorial.

Anyway, once you get it cleaned right, you want it coked right i.e. avoid that rubbery texture that comes from overcooking it. To do that, you can cook it really fast on high heat, like in a stir-fry, BUT the chinese translation of that ( 炒鱿鱼) also means to get fired from your job, and that doesn't seem to bode well especially around this period of time when we should be saying 恭喜发财 (gong xi fa cai i.e. "wishing you good fortune/prosperity).

So the other way to go, was to cook it really slow. Been very into stuffing things lately, see last post on cabbage dumplings, and hey, I have a whole squid, not squid rings, so why not? I saw this mediterranean-style recipe using tomato sauce that looked really good and basic, and just for a taste of home, mixed it up with the very easy recipe for stir-fried sambal tumis sotong, and there you have it, stuffed squid baked in sambal chilli.

Stuffed Squid Baked in Sambal Chilli
1 medium squid, cleaned and tentacles removed (do not throw! save for other recipes, or chop up and add to the stuffing mixture)
1 heaped tbsp sambal tumis
2-3 tbsp tamarind paste, made by soaking tamarind pulp in hot water
1/2 onion, sliced into rings
1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil, or olive oil if you wish
chopped fresh coriander leaves, to serve

for stuffing
cooked rice
toasted cashew nuts
chopped coriander stalks
dash of fish sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. In a medium hot pan, fry the sambal chilli paste in coconut oil till fragrant. Add the tamarind pulp and let simmer for a while to thicken.
3. Combine ingredients for stuffing. Stuff the squid with it, do not be greedy and stuff too much, the squid will shrink while cooking! Secure with a toothpick.

4. In a baking dish, place onion slices at the bottom, then place stuffed squid over, and finally, pour over the sauce.

5. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the squid is cooked through. Serve with chopped fresh coriander leaves sprinkled over.

The squid cooked this way was unbelievably tender and bouncy, making it a great wrapper around the savoury fragrant rice/nuts/herb stuffing. That, combined with the spicy, sweet and tangy sambal tumis sauce, was a delicious way to have my squid and keep my job ;)

Give fresh squid a try, it's actually in season right now, and a very sustainable seafood option that doesn't break the bank. You can also play around with it, and stuff it with anything really. Helen from Food Stories, has this sizzling one that I've bookmarked from long ago, it's squid stuffed with minced pork and thai spices, and then grilled quickly over the bbq (unfortunately, it's not exactly the right season for a bbq, but hey, no one's stopping you!)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Steamed Cabbage Dim-Sum Dumplings

Chinese New Year is in a few days' time! Growing up, that was the day we all looked forward to and got excited about. It's when we have festive cheesy music, new clothes, huge family gatherings with relatives you never knew you had, and of course, lots and lots of food. See why I never was that excited about Christmas? This is our "Christmas".

That's one thing that's keeping me cheerful. My laptop's been taken away for a repair, and it's not only costing a hell lot, it's smack before portfolio submission, and will take about a week. It's not just withdrawal symptoms I'm suffering from, it's the flu symptoms too.

I've got here a slight twist on traditional dim-sum, using cabbage leaves instead of gyoza/potsticker wrappers or wonton skins. It's a lot lighter and fresher, and makes for a welcome change from the indulgent treats around this period, especially if you, like me, are feeling under the weather lately.

Steamed Cabbage Dim-Sum Dumplings
Makes 10 cabbage rolls
5 large cabbage leaves (I used a January King, wrinkly savoy would be pretty too)
300g free-range british pork mince
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1/2" piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally brewed and fermented)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
generous dash of white pepper

Dipping sauce
2 tbsp good soy sauce
2 tbsp black rice vinegar
(opt, not for the s) chilli oil

1. In a large bowl, mix the ginger, soy sauce, pepper and sesame oil with the pork, stirring vigorously in one direction till the mixture comes together. Gather the ball of mixture and slap it back down into the bowl repeatedly. These tips are important! They will result in a better springier texture.

Stir in the spring onions after that or they get mushed up (I realised this from experience) then leave to marinade.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and blanch the cabbage leaves so they become more flexible and easy to work with. Refresh in cold water and pat dry. Slice each leaf into half, removing the hard stalk in the meanwhile (don't waste, just pop into your mouth;)

3. To wrap, place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of the leaf wrapper. Bring the bottom up, the sides together, and then roll away from you, till you get a nice tight cabbage roll.

4. Arrange the cabbage dumplings on a lined bamboo steamer, or you can simply use a plate set over a steaming rack. Steam for 8-10 min till cooked.

5. Serve warm with the soy-vinegar dipping sauce.

I think the savoy cabbage really just begs to be stuffed, its large, beautifully wrinkled leaves serving as the perfect wrap, but you can use any cabbage really. The leaves become really soft and delicate after steaming, so you can easily bite through into the savoury, juicy pork-and-spring-onion filling. And the super simple vinegar soy dipping sauce just adds that bit of acidity which complements each bite really well, I think it'd be nicer with shreds of ginger in it too actually.

You can of course stuff it with your filling of choice. Prawns, maybe water chestnuts or something crunchy, and if you want to use chicken, make sure it's kind of fatty, i.e. not breast meat. I've done something similar before in spring with collard greens, "pseudo-lmades"; they're larger so I stuffed them with rice, toasted nuts, sweet raisins and lots of fresh herbs, but anyway, this is just so you know you can really stuff these cabbage dumplings with whatever you want!

Happy Chinese New Year, may it be filled with food, prosperity (definitely need a bit of this after the laptop repair), health, happiness, and more food (:

I'm also happy to add that this recipe appears in this month's Flavour magazine!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Rustic Hand-torn Sourdough Noodles (Mee Hoon Kueh)

It's been two consecutive posts about kimchi thus far, and I'm not going to continue with a third, but I really do enjoy making my own fermented food. They're fab for your health, usually quite simple to make, requiring not much more than just patience, and I feel this odd sense of motherly pride looking at my little fermented babies. I think it might be a sign that I'll make not a half-bad mother 10 years later. I do enjoy eating my babies though.

Besides kimchi, my sourdough starter has been brewing happily, and though I haven't been baking with it that much these days, I have been using it for crepes/pasta/noodles just because they're a lot simpler. I made my sourdough pasta dough that day, ready to cut into noodles, but got lazy and decided heck. Just roll it out and tear them in. That's the way a very rustic, homely handmade noodle dish, called mee hoon kueh (usually plain flour and water) is made back in Singapore.

The stock couldn't be simpler, it's an asian dashi stock made with dried anchovies and shiitake mushrooms (you can even make it instantly if you've got my all-natural instant stock powder recipe down). That's more common, though you can easily use any homemade stock you've got on hand.

Rustic Hand-torn Sourdough Noodles
serves 1
For noodles

For soup stock
handful of dried anchovies (ikan bilis)
shiitake mushrooms soaking water (see below)
2 cloves garlic, chopped

For serving
small handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and drained
chopped spring onions

The seasonings
1 tsp traditionally fermented MSG-free oyster sauce
dash of white pepper, unrefined sea salt, to taste

1. Add the dried anchovies to the mushroom soaking water, top up with enough water for a bowl of soup, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 20 min. Slice the shiitake mushrooms, let marinate in the oyster sauce for a short while.
2. Meanwhile, fry the chopped garlic in a little oil till fragrant. Drain and add the fried garlic to the simmering stock. In the remaining oil, fry the mushrooms to cook, then set aside with the rest of your toppings.

3. Roll out, or just flatten, your ball of sourdough noodle/pasta dough. Tear pieces off and drop it into the boiling stock. They're cooked when they float to the top.

4. Season to taste with pepper and sea salt. Dish out into a bowl, top with the mushrooms, roasted anchovies, fried shallots, and spring onions over, then tuck in! It's also nice to have thick sweet soy sauce and chilli on the side; my kind of thing.

This is handmade noodles at its best, simple, hearty, and for me, nostalgic. There's a rustic sort of fun in tearing your noodles into odd mini-handkerchief-like shapes, instead of the usual fiddly long strands. My mum used to shoo us from the kitchen, it was her territory, so we hardly got to cook as kids, but this was one thing we all got the chance to do. You can definitely do it your way, if you don't have/like anchovies; other versions come topped with minced meat or a poached egg, brilliant too!

See the traditional home-style version I did again more recently, here

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Kimchi Pheasant Pot-Roast

This is the reason why I made a new batch of kimchi the other day; the last of my 2 month-old mature kimchi went into this pheasant pot-roast.

I'm still relatively new to game, having grown up in a country where the closest we get to shooting season is when the government sends pest-management people to shoot crows. I tried venison recently, loved it, and now am on to the next least scary one on the list of game meats (see below). It's not very expensive either, plus I pretty much got it free (job perks heh). Pheasant really does remind me of a smaller chicken, but with much leaner meat and a slightly gamey smell to it, which was why I decided to braise it with the powerful spicy and tangy kimchi and kimchi juice. As with most things I'm unsure about, I went the easy way, low and slow, and the results were deliciously tender.

Photo from 2 years ago, when I first came to borough market.
I didn't know they were meant to be eaten.

Kimchi Pheasant Pot-Roast
serves 2
1 pheasant
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 pieces of ginger
1 cup chopped kimchi+ 1 cup kimchi juices
4 tbsp groundnut oil
unrefined sea salt, white pepper

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius.
2. Place a heavy-bottomed casserole pot over the stove. Add the oil and when the oil is hot, add the pheasant to brown, until golden all over, about 10 min.

3. Set aside. Add the onions and garlic and stir-fry till softened and fragrant. Add the kimchi to the pot and stir-fry for a couple min more.

4. Return pheasant to the pot, pour kimchi juices over.

5. Bring to a simmer, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil (some fancy French technique) followed by the lid, and place in the oven for 3 hours. When done, sprinkle over chopped spring onions, and let rest for a while, tented with foil, before carving (or rather, tearing. It's tender enough.)

Maybe it was the 3 hours, or maybe it was the enzymes in the kimchi juices at work, but the pheasant was deliciously juicy and tender despite its reputation of being too lean. If you're not normally crazy about the plate of cold kimchi on the side of your Korean meal, you might quite likely change your mind with this. The slow-braising in the oven kind of mellows the pungency of the kimchi out while intensifying its flavour, so all that sour, spicy and savoury flavours just infuse the roasted pheasant with all things good. Super healthy too I might add. Definitely worth offering the last of my kimchi for this beautiful bird.

P.S. Charles!! It's the first dish I cooked in your pot (:

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Better Homemade Kimchi

It's 2012! A new year! Out with the old, and in with the new. I decided to use up the last of the 2 month-old kimchi in a stew, and to replace that, I made a new batch a few days back. For those of you who might not have heard of kimchi (you obviously have not been hanging around hipster modern English restaurants/ London streetfood carts enough), it's like Korean sauerkraut, with a kick. Sour, spicy, just delicious, oh and also incredibly healthy, even arguably the Koreans' secret to longevity.

I've made kimchi before, but I don't think it was the best it could be. It is very simple though, so if you want a no-faff, passable kimchi recipe, you may still like it. This new one is inspired by Maangchi and many other Korean youtube videos, made with grated pear instead of sugar, and with an extra step of making a "porridge". This is still considered an easy version i.e. mak kimchi, the traditional one uses the whole cabbage. You don't have to use napa cabbage, I've tried it before with your normal white cabbage, works brilliantly too.

2 small/medium (about 2kg) napa cabbage i.e. chinese leaf lettuce
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sweet rice flour i.e. glutinous rice flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 cup of Korean hot chilli pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece ginger, minced
1 large onion, minced
1 pear, peeled and grated

1 carrot, shredded
1 bunch spring onions, shredded
(Whatever you like that's in season. I've added shredded beetroot before too. You can even add raw oysters/ squid etc. for a deluxe version.)

1. Chop cabbage up into bite-sized pieces.
2. Soak in cold water for about 5-10 min. Drain, sprinkle the salt over evenly. Leave it for 1 1/2 hours, but turn about 2-3 times through to salt evenly. By then, the cabbage would have sweat and reduced in volume by quite a lot. Rinse 3 times.

This basin was full to the brim an hour ago. 

3. Meanwhile, make your spice porridge. Add rice flour to water and bring to a simmer, keep stirring. Remove from heat, and when cool, add the rest of the ingredients to the rice paste.

4. Combine the cabbage, add-ons, and spice porridge. Get your largest mixing bowl and mix well.

5. Transfer from the mixing bowl into a sealable container (non-reactive, i.e. not a cheapo thin plastic) , and wait. Remember to press down well, and continue doing so for the next 2 days, submerging the vegetables under the kimchi juices that gets released.

6. About 2 days later, you'll see bubbles and it will smell slightly sour (in a nice way), that's when you can transfer it to the fridge, where you can try some 2 days later, or let it stay for a months even, depending on how mature you like it. I think a week is the minimum for good kimchi-ness.

I love kimchi, it's spicy sour tang instantly whets your appetite, and it makes an easy side to grilled meat/fish or even plain rice, or for the older ones, I add it to stews, or even just batter it to make kimchi fritters, yum. Because I like my kimchi really mature, I can only say for sure if it's better than version one a month or so later, but I've sneaked bites (it's been a couple of weeks) and already I like it.

Is this the best possible kimchi? Of course not, Koreans have nationwide competitions for it and they add fresh raw oysters and squid and all sorts of goodies to this powerful pickle. But this is a lot more realistic and doable for a starving student. Now the difficult bit, to wait.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year's Spicy Sprout Tops Stir-fried in Chicken Fat

It's 2012, gosh how time flies.

At this time every year, there's a huge spike in the number of searches for things like 'diet' and "burning calories". I know because I have a friend who likes to spew out little Google trend facts like this. I don't know if many of you read my about or listen to your mummy pages, but this blog is as much about yummy food, and about health. Which, to me, shouldn't be that difficult because they go hand in hand. I don't believe in calories, or low carb, or low fat, I believe in just cooking and eating real food, and that's easily going to beat any microwaveable pizza nutrition-wise, taste-wise, and actually, budget-wise too.

Here's an example of something simple and good. We've probably all had more than enough of brussel sprouts from Christmas, but the sprout tops themselves are worth a second look. If you can't get hold of these, any cabbage will be delicious sliced thinly into ribbons and tossed in a quick stir-fry like so. And for a naughty kick, I used chicken fat (could very well be any leftover fat from roast turkey/pork/bacon drippings etc.) which is wonderful for flavour, great for the high heat stir-frying, and actually really quite healthy and not as naughty as we think.

Stir-fried Sprout Tops with Chilli and Ginger
serves 1-2 as a side dish
1 large bunch sprout tops
1 clove garlic
2 red chillies
1 inch piece of ginger
1 tbsp chicken fat (or choice of fat)
2-3 tbsp of stock (or water)
dash of good soy sauce, traditionally brewed and fermented
juice of half a small lemon

1. Pluck the leaves off the core and slice into thin ribbons, including the stalks (that's really the sweetest and crispest part!) Chop up the garlic, finely slice the chilli and ginger.
2. Melt fat in a frying pan or wok over medium-high heat, but do use a large pan so the vegetables can get tossed around and ultimately end up in your stomach instead of all over the stovetop.
4. Add the sprout tops, turn up the heat, then add a splash of stock or water. Keep everything moving, so nothing burns!
5. When almost all the liquid has disappeared, drizzle in the soy sauce form the side of the pan, do a final few tosses to mix everything.
6. Remove from heat, squeeze of lemon. Serve hot, with rice/noodles/fish/meat.

I just look at the colours and I want to eat my veg, not just to fulfill my 5-a-day. I think the whole idea is loving food for what it is.

Anyway, I was listening to this great vlog, and have decided my New Year's Resolution for 2012 is to be more me, to do what I really love and believe that by some unfathomable law of attraction or force of physics, that all things foodie and some things design will hence gravitate towards me, so that even though I'm probably not good enough to have my own cookbook or cafe, I may perhaps design cookbooks and cafe signs and napkins.