Friday, 24 June 2016

Cauliflower & Potato Curry



Of all the vegetarian dishes that I have cooked over the years, the one I have whipped up most frequently is probably this, or at least a variation of it. I say that as the recipe for this is actually quite fluid and I have probably never cooked it in exactly the same way twice. Potatoes and cauliflower are of course the mainstays but you can also add further veg as you see fit - often I add peas for instance and they are an excellent fit or you could add a larger mix: carrot, aubergine, peppers and so on.

Similarly make it as spicy or mild as takes your fancy: you could even add coconut milk if the mood takes you. Whatever you choose, serve with a big mound of fluffy basmati rice and if you can, the coriander yoghurt as it really lifts the flavours.

Note that you can peel the potatoes if you like, I don’t bother.


Cauliflower & Potato Curry
serves 2


1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp mustard seeds, toasted
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted
small tin chopped tomatoes
3 curry leaves
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground tumeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
300g potatoes, chopped into thick chunks
1 green chilli, deseeded (otional) and sliced
½ head cauliflower, cut into florets just larger than the potato
Greek-style yogurt
small handful coriander, chopped


Mix the chopped coriander with 3 or 4 tbsp yoghurt in a small bowl and set aside.


Mix the chopped coriander with 3 or 4 tbsp yoghurt in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. Boil a further 5 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for at least ten minutes until softened and golden.

Mix in the chilli and spices and cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Now add the potatoes and cauliflower, stirring to coat them in the spice mixture.


Add the tomatoes and curry leaves and simmer for 5 minutes.


Add about 250ml water, season generously then bring back to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 10 minutes.


Serve with some plain rice and the bowl of coriander spiked yoghurt on the side.










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Saturday, 11 June 2016

Taiwanese Meat & Mushroom Sauce with Rice



I’ve made a Taiwanese meat sauce before and in that recipe I mention that it can be made with chunks of pork, as that was, or with minced pork, as of course this is.

This is basically then a Chinese spaghetti bolognese, Taiwanese style and can be served over noodles, or as I have done here, rice.

I think that Taiwanese stewed pork is 滷肉, read as 'lu rou' in Mandarin and when boiled eggs are simmered in the sauce in this manner they are called 滷蛋 or 'lu dan'. How they come together as a name for the whole I’m not sure (and I have probably got it wrong anyway).


Taiwanese Meat & Mushroom Sauce
serves 1


100g minced pork
10g dried shitake mushroom, soaked and roughly chopped (keep the soaking water)
1 tsp dried shrimps (soaked and roughly chopped)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped (reserve some green parts for garnish)
½ tsp five spice powder
2 tbsp sweet soy (I used kecap manis)
1 tsp light soy
½ tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1 small dried red chilli
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 hard boiled egg, peeled
crispy fried shallot, to serve



Top up the reserved mushroom soaking water to 150ml and set aside.

Heat a wok and when hot add the oil and then the garlic and onion, stir fry for a couple of minutes till softened and lightly golden.

Add the dried shrimps and stir till fragrant and then add the pork mince, breaking it up into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the meat is almost cooked through and the wok is dry.

Add the wine and stir for a minute or so before adding the mushrooms and 5-spice. Keep stirring for another couple of minutes.


Add the soy sauces, vinegar and dried chilli.


Turn the heat up and add the diluted mushroom soaking water, bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook gently for at least 10-20 minutes (the longer the better as the pork will get more tender with increased cooking time). Stir occasionally and top up the water if necessary if it is getting too dry.

Add the egg.


Nestle the egg into the sauce for at least another 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally.


Serve the sauce over rice or noodles with the boiled egg halved and some spring onion greens and crispy shallots scattered over.






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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Chorizo & Asparagus 'Carbonara'



At the time of cooking, and indeed writing the first draft of this, I was trying to clear the freezer of random odds and ends in the hope that I would then have some space for a dump of freezer meals such as chilli, ragu etc for when the baby arrived and I suspected I wouldn’t have the time (or inclination as it turned out) to cook..

We had two lonely little cooking chorizo wallowing at the back of a drawer somewhere so I figured I’d chuck them into a pasta dish.

The basis of this then was HFW “3 good things” recipe where he uses, surprise surprise, pasta chorizo and asparagus. I wanted to make it a little more carbonara-esque though as, if I’m honest, I wasn’t convinced by the simplicity, so came up with this.


Chorizo & Asparagus “Carbonara”
serves 2


150g spaghetti
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cooking chorizo, diced
100g asparagus tips, woody ends snapped off and sliced into 3 cm lengths
2 large egg yolks
100ml double cream
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water and cook according to package instructions, adding the asparagus for the last 3-5 minutes (depending on how thick your asparagus is).

Meanwhile heat oil in a frying pan and add chorizo: cook for about 10 minutes until cooked through and crisp.



In a small bowl beat the egg yolks and cream together and lightly season.

When the pasta is done, drain (reserving a little of the cooking water) and return the pasta and asparagus to the pan then tip in the cooked chorizo and the egg mixture.


Stir everything together quickly so that the eggy sauce cooks in the heat of the pasta, adding a little pasta cooking water if needed to loosen the sauce a little (you probably won’t need to but it is always worth saving a little pasta water, just in case).

Serve immediately with some extra freshly ground black pepper and grated parmesan.






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Monday, 6 June 2016

Pork with Sichuan Chilli Oil Sauce



My 2nd recipe this week from the October 2014 issue of Olive magazine - moving from the Chettinad region of India to Chengdu in China and of course Sichuan cuisine: one of my favourites.

The recipes featured were taken from a cookbook called Hunan: A Lifetime of Secrets from Mr. Peng’s Kitchen. Confusingly the recipes therein are Sichuan in origin rather than Hunanese - the (co-)author, Mr Peng has a restaurant in Pimlico called Hunan, so-called it seems in homage to the man who taught him to cook, rather than the region.

Anyway, two recipes caught my eye - the first being for a Sichuan chilli “sauce” which to me resembled the chilli oil with sediment that I love to spoon over as much food as possible and then a dry pork dish, where the chilli sauce is used as a condiment.

The chilli sauce recipe makes quite a lot: which is fine by me as I poured the excess into a couple of little jars to keep and use as I like (edit: ahem - all now used up, which reminds me that I really must make some more), but you could possibly scale the ingredients down if you weren’t sure you would use as much as me. Be warned though it is FANTASTIC so if you do scale it down you may very well regret it.

You will also need to make some “garlic juice” for the pork marinade - simply crush 2 cloves of garlic and leave to steep in 100 ml of water for 20 minutes then strain and use the resultant allium scented water.

I was slightly disappointed by the pork but only in that mine didn’t look like the picture accompanying the recipe. I’m not sure why this was but I think it is down to one of 3 reasons (or a combination): I used quite a lot of oil in the frying but didn’t deep-fry as suggested; I didn’t dry the pork off as it came out of the marinade; I let it sit in the cornflour too long before frying. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious but didn’t have that hint of crispy batter that the pic showed.

But the sauce/oil more than made up that. Now to arrange a visit to the restaurant itself.


Sichuan Chilli Oil
Makes approx 300ml


4 tbsp dried red chilli flakes
200ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
150ml chicken stock (you’ll use 6 tbsp + more possibly)
2 tsp tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce or use hoisin)
2 tsp tomato purée
pinch of sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar



Heat a wok and when it is very hot add one tablespoon of oil and the chilli flakes - be careful as there will probably be a lot of spitting and smoke. Not to mention sneezing.

As the chilli flakes absorb the oil add the rest of it, a tablespoon at a time until you have what resembles an oily paste. This will take 5-10 minutes.

The chilli flakes will darken considerably but be careful not to let it burn.

Take the wok off the heat and add the Sichuan peppercorns and 3 tablespoons of stock. Hold your nerve as it will sizzle and bubble up quite ferociously.


Stir through then put the wok back on the heat and add the sweet bean sauce, tomato purée, 3 more tablespoons of stock and a pinch each of salt and sugar.


Stir everything together well and add a bit more stock if you like but you need a thick yet runny sauce.


Finally add the white wine vinegar, stir through and remove from the heat. Reserve a couple of tablespoons to serve with the pork and carefully pour the rest (let it cool a bit) into a jar.




Pork with Sichuan Chilli Oil Sauce
serves 2


2 small boneless pork loin steaks, trimmed of fat, sliced into strips
100ml garlic juice (see note above)
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
2 tbsp cornflour
vegetable oil, for frying
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, sliced (the whole length, including greens)
a pinch of Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp Sichuan chilli sauce (as above)


Put the pork strips in a bowl with the garlic juice, Shaoxing wine, wine vinegar and 5-spice. Mix it all together well and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.


Remove the pieces from the marinade and coat with the cornflour.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a wok and fry the pork until golden. When it is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper on a plate.

Discard most of the oil and then quickly stir-fry the chilli, spring onion and garlic for a minute or so.


Return the pork to the wok and stir in the peppercorns and a pinch of salt.


Continue to stir-fry for another minute and then serve over plain rice with the Sichuan chilli oil sauce drizzled over.











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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Baked Gnocchi with Bacon & Bocconcini



Depending on what our plans are I tend to like to cook more complicated, drawn out recipes on a Sunday but on this occasion hubby (although he was only bf at the time!) was in Cambridge and I was in North London for the day so I wanted something quick yet lovely and comforting (comfort food for me is a 12 month a year thing - but was particularly so in my rather pregnant, at the time, condition).

The week before I was in Borough Market with my friend BGJ to pick up some bits and pieces and we tried some fresh gnocchi from one of the Italian stands there. Oh my god, they were so good so my plan had been to come up with a recipe (this) and go back to pick up some of the gnocchi to go in it.

Unfortunately life intervened and I couldn’t make it down there to pick up some of that incredible gnocchi but I still really wanted this so popped into a Tescburys to pick up some ready-made stuff.

I might be wrong but I wonder if that was the way to go - non-refrigerated shop bought gnocchi tends to be quite firm which I think would prove to be a good thing. I used ready-made gnocchi that was refrigerated with the fresh pastas and that was on the edge if I’m honest. I suspect that the more delicate homemade type would have collapsed into mush with the baking. But anyway - give this a go, it is pretty good.


Baked Gnocchi with Bacon, Mushrooms & Mozzarella
serves 2-4 (you may have leftovers)


1 pack shop-bought gnocchi (400-500g)
1 tsp olive oil
1 small banana shallot, finely chopped
150g bacon, chopped
100g mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato purée
125ml (small wine glass) white wine
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp double cream
salt & pepper to taste
100g bocconcini, halved (or mozzarella, torn into chunks)
handful basil leaves, torn



Preheat oven to 200°C.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the gnocchi following packet directions. Drain.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a large heavy-based sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring, for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured.

Add bacon and cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes or until the bacon is starting to crisp with most of the fat rendered. Add mushroom and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes or until mushroom is soft.


Add the wine. Cook, scraping any bits from the base of the pan, for 3-4 minutes or until wine reduces by half. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato purée, sugar and red pepper flakes and simmer for 5 minutes.


Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream, basil and seasoning.


Add the drained gnocchi to the sauce and transfer to an oven-proof dish and top with the torn bocconcini.


Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.









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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Chettinad Chicken



New favourite chicken curry alert! Well it was at the time of cooking and eating it anyway, but honestly that was so long ago now it may well have changed a few times.

I’d not used Olive magazine as a source for recipes for some time, although I’m not sure why. There were a few in the most reason issue (at time of cooking - I’ve now actually cancelled my subscription as nothing seemed to be particularly interesting or challenging to me anymore) that took my eye though and this is one of those.

Chettinad cuisine is the cuisine of the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India. The Chettiar community, who are a majority in this region, are a very successful trading community.

The dishes are famous for their use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian (but generally no beef or pork) food. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas that often contain fennel seeds, star anise, cinnamon and whole red chillies. As such Chettinad cuisine is apparently one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India and the Chettinads (the word "Chettinad" means a social caste specialising in the preparation of food) are considered master chefs.

Chettinad Chicken is a fiery curry but I see no reason why you can't reduce the chillies to suit your own taste - which I did to a certain extent. I also did a bit of research into Chettinad Chicken and decided that the recipe needed a little tampering - poppy seeds for instance are mentioned in pretty much every recipe I looked at bar the Olive one. With this in mind I wrote them into my curry only to realise that on this front the spice store cupboard was bare. Boo.

I did add a tomato, red chilli powder, a clove and some lemon juice but the next time I cook this, and there will be a next time, I’ll definitely add a teaspoon of poppy seeds to the spice mix.


Chettinad Chicken
serves 2


1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
250g skinless chicken thigh fillets, quartered
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 small/medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, seeded and sliced
1 plum tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tbsp unsweetened dessicated coconut, toasted
½ cinnamon stick
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
150ml chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the dry spice mix
½ tsp each of fennel seeds, cumin seeds & coriander seeds
1 clove
1 cardamom pod
½ dried long red chilli
½ star anise



Mix the ginger and garlic pastes with the turmeric and a splash of water in a bowl. Add the chicken and stir well to coat then set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Toast the spice mix in a dry frying pan then grind in a spice grinder or using a pestle & mortar and set aside.

Heat the oil in a sauté or frying pan and add the onion and sliced red chilli. Season with salt and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until softened and starting to brown.

Add the chicken and marinade, spice mix & chilli powder, tomato and purée, coconut and cinnamon stick and fry for 5-10 minutes.


Pour in the stock and simmer gently for 30 minutes.


Stir through the lemon juice and serve immediately over rice, or with a naan bread if that’s your thing.






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