Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Mixed Mushroom & Cabbage Claypot Rice... and Cookbook Giveaway with London Farmers' Market

It’s times like this when you really understand the meaning of comfort foods. My friend was digging into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s as her eyes stayed glued to the TV screen, transfixed in horror at the red creeping across and edging out the blue on the American map. I’m not going to go into politics on a food blog, but suffice to say, this year has been a nerve-wracking one on both sides of the pond. When the denial, outrage, and despair settles, one goes on – seeking solace in the comfort of familiar things. For my friend, it was Ben & Jerry’s; for me, it’s rice (sorry for being a cliché), in any and every form.

Today’s recipe will be claypot rice – fragrant, smoky and a delicious dish you can adapt with whatever ingredients you fancy. The claypot retains heat beautifully so that the rice steams while absorbing the flavours from the other ingredients; the bottom layer chars, forming a nutty crust– the bit we would all fight over. Traditionally, you'll set a claypot over charcoal fire, but you can get pretty good results at home using a gas stove. The most classic claypot rice includes dried Chinese sausage and marinated chicken, but this is a version celebrating Autumn's vegetables. This wild mushroom claypot rice is one of my favourite comfort one-pot recipes from Chicken and Rice, but I’ve adapted it to fit in even more of this season’s goodness, including the gorgeous savoy cabbage crying out to be picked up.

*Note: While meat-free, this is not vegetarian as I use chicken stock and oyster sauce for extra flavour, but you can tweak it to be so, tips below.

Serves 2

100g mix of fresh mushrooms (chestnut, oyster, shiitake, enoki)
2 large leaves of savoy cabbage, core removed and sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp groundnut oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 ¼ cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

to serve
2 tbsp kecap manis (OR to substitute, equal amounts of light soy sauce and molasses)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
chopped spring onions

1. Soak the claypot in water for about 10 minutes before cooking. Meanwhile, slice the cabbage and mushrooms, and roughly break up the more delicate mushrooms into smaller pieces.
2. Set claypot over medium flame. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and when the oil is hot, fry the fresh mushrooms till just golden. Be careful not to overcrowd the claypot, or the mushrooms will end up steaming and not brown; I do this in batches.
3. Rinse the rice twice, or till the water runs clear. Drain well. Add the remaining oil to the claypot and when hot, add the chopped garlic. Fry till golden and fragrant, then add the rice. Lightly sauté for 2 minutes or so to toast the grains
4. Stir together the soy sauce, oyster sauce and chicken stock, and pour the mixture into the claypot. Bring everything to a boil over high heat. Drizzle sesame oil around the edges of the pot so that it runs down the insides. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is mostly cooked.
5. Scatter the cabbage and sautéed mushrooms over the rice and replace the lid. Turn the heat up to a high again and cook, still covered, for about 2 minutes until sizzling and a crust forms on the bottom. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes.
6. To serve, uncover and fluff the rice with a pair of chopsticks. (It will be smokey...) Drizzle kecap manis and sesame oil over, and finish with a sprinkle of spring onions. Have everyone dig in and mix the rice, mushrooms, and seasonings together as they go. 

*You can do this with a small cast-iron casserole pot if you don’t have a claypot.
* For a vegetarians/ vegan version: Skip the oyster sauce and use vegetable stock or even better, mushroom stock from rehydrating dried mushrooms.
* You can also tweak it to be as meaty as you like, throwing in sliced pork belly, or chicken marinated in the same sauce then seared.


Now to explain the London Farmers' Market bit of the title. A couple months back, I met up for a long-overdue pint with Mark, part of the team running this fantastic network of markets connecting growers and producers with real food lovers in the city. Mark was my old boss when I was working as a market manager for Pimlico Farmers’ Market in my early student years. The productive (surprise) pub chat's resulted in me promising to create and share a recipe with the LFM folks and customers in mind – though of course this is available for anyone reading this blog to try. 

It was a dream weekend job – it meant being surrounded by delicious food (and it meant I could pay for more sketchbooks and Adobe subscriptions)! It also meant waking up at ungodly hours on a Saturday and forgoing Friday nights out… but I loved it. Over the 3 years I was there, I made friends with producers who really care about food; and I learnt to anticipate purple sprouting broccoli as a sign of the seasons changing. I got invited to a few of their beautiful farms, tasted lots of beautiful food, and learnt the importance of great produce for flavour and for nutrition. 

While I grew up on – and am still heavily biased towards – the punchy flavours and spices of Southeast Asia, a stroll around my local farmer’s market is still one of my best ways to get inspired in the kitchen. That’s influenced my ideas in the kitchen, and ultimately the cookbook, so I’ve been more than keen to create this recipe for them. We're also giving away 5 copies of Chicken and Rice (yay it’s Christmas), so if you fancy holding more recipes like this in your hands, you can hop over to the LFM website and put your hand up. Here's to a merry remainder of the year.