Sunday, 26 February 2012

Spicy Italian Sausage Fusilli

A Jamie Oliver pasta dish here - one which he describes as being for “proper blokes” for some reason. I’m not one for being discriminatory with food, although he does go on to say that girls “tend to like it as well”. So that’s OK then.

There isn’t really a sauce to speak of but the gutsy flavours from the sausage meat and herbs coat the pasta, aided by a few spoonfuls of the starchy cooking liquid. I use nice fat spicy Italian sausages here but any good proper butcher’s sausages will work well too - buy the best quality you can afford as crappy cereal-packed cheap ones just won’t work.

Spicy Italian Sausage Fusilli
Serves 2

1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
1 tbsp olive oil
300g good-quality coarse spicy Italian sausages (2 fat ones), skins removed
1½ tsp dried oregano
½ wineglass of white wine
zest and juice of ½ lemon
250g fusilli
a small knob of butter
a small handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Pulverise the fennel seeds and chillies in a pestle and mortar until coarsely crushed and put aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and add the sausage meat into the pan,breaking it up using the back of a spoon. Fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to colour, crushing more so it’s like coarse mince. Throw in the bashed-up fennel seeds and chillies and cook on a medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes until the meat becomes golden brown and slightly crisp and caramelised in places.

Stir in the oregano and pour in the white wine, allow it to gently bubble away and reduce by half before adding the lemon zest and juice.

Reduce the heat to as low as possible then cook the pasta, according to packet instructions in a large pan of well salted boiling water until al dente.

Drain, reserving some of the cooking water, then toss the pasta with the sausage meat and about 5 tbsp of the cooking water. The pasta should be well coated and glossy with the “sauce” ingredients then stir through the butter, parmesan and chopped parsley.

Check for seasoning and adjust carefully as necessary then serve with some freshly cracked black pepper and a little extra grated Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Read More »

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Zhajiang Mian (Noodles with Pork & Yellow Soybean Paste)

OK, well I’ll say straight off that this wasn’t the greatest of successes. It was though something that I’d been wanting to try for some time - an adaptation of Zhajiang mian, which can kind of be described as a Chinese spaghetti bolognese. This is, in part, based on Ken Hom’s “bean sauce noodles” recipe which can be found here.

I had, or so I thought, a glut of packets of yellow bean sauce, brought back from a trip to Beijing, which I felt I should at least partly use up. So it seemed as good a time as ever to give this a go. As it turned out, what I have are packets of yellow bean paste, much thicker and darker than sauce, and with no whole beans. In my infinite wisdom I decided that I should increase the amount of chilli bean sauce slightly, and also add some (rinsed) salted, fermented black beans to compensate for the lack of whole beans in the yellow bean paste. I also added some rehydrated shredded woodear mushrooms which add, in my opinion at least, a quintessentially Chinese texture to this sort of dish.

Now, do bear in mind that fermented black beans can be very salty - but, and it’s quite a big but, I did rinse them thoroughly and furthermore I didn’t add the teaspoon of salt that Hom adds in his recipe, as I felt that was just overkill taking the other ingredients into consideration. But it still tasted very salty. Not salty in a needing to drink ten pints of water type of way, but very salty all the same. I’d actually intended to add some zha cai (as can be seen in the ingredients pic), again for a bit of crunch and added texture but also because I love it, but forgot*. Thank god I did in all honesty as that may have been a sodium step too far!

I will try this again at some point as I do think that potentially it will be very good, and right up my street but what follows is, as cooked. It’s OK in this form, but as I say, pretty salty and not quite there yet.

Zhajiang mian - noodles with pork & yellow soybean paste
Serves 2

170g dried noodles
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp groundnut oil
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
10g fresh root ginger, finely chopped
2 medium spring onions, finely chopped plus 2 coarsely chopped (for garnish)
250g minced pork
2 tbsp whole yellow bean sauce
2 tsp chilli bean sauce
1 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed & slightly crushed
2 tbsp dried shredded woodear mushrooms (black fungus), rehydrated & drained
2½ tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp sugar
150ml water
* I also didn’t add any chilli oil as can be seen in the photo below for other reasons

Heat, a wok over high heat then add the oil. When it starts to smoke add the the garlic, ginger and spring onions. Stir-fry for 15 seconds, taking care not to burn the ingredients then add the minced pork.

Stir all the time, pressing down with the back of a wooden spoon to break up the pork and continue to stir-fry for a few minutes until it is no longer pink.

Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the noodles, sesame oil and coarsely chopped onions, stirring all the time.

Bring the mixture to the boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for five minutes.

Meanwhile cook the noodles according to package instructions (possibly difficult if, like mine, they are in Mandarin) and when cooked drain well and toss through the sesame oil.

Tip the noodles into the wok then mix everything together well. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the coarsely chopped spring onions.

Read More »

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Chicken with Tomatoes, Peas and Garam Masala

The inspiration for this particular recipe came from a piece in a Saturday Guardian (or maybe The Observer, not sure) by Nigel Slater, on cooking with garam masala (the original can be seen here). I've  tinkered with it somewhat though, in particular adding extra spices as well as extra veg in the form of peas.

A bit of googling shows that chicken garam masala is in fact quite a common and popular dish in India. The term garam masala itself in Hindi literally means “hot mixture” and is a blend of spices common in North India particularly, as well as other South Asian food. The word garam (hot) actually refers to the intensity & pungency of the spices rather than referring to chilli heat.

The individual spices used in garam masala (they are toasted and then ground together) vary enormously according to both region and personal taste, hence none can really be considered more authentic than another. Typical versions may contain black & white peppercorns, cloves, mace, black & white cumin seeds, cardamom pods (black, brown & green), nutmeg, star anise and coriander seeds. Commercially available mixes here tend to also use a higher proportion of less expensive spices such as dried red chili peppers & garlic, ginger powder, sesame and mustard seed and so on. Of course it is always better to grind and mix your own spices if you can - saying that though, this recipe does use a commercial mix for ease.

Chicken with tomatoes, peas & garam masala
Serves 2

1 tbsp groundnut oil  
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ cinnamon stick
⅛ teaspoon black peppercorns 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
25g ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small hot red chilli, finely chopped
150g chicken breast, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp ground coriander
⅛ tsp cayenne
2-3 ripe medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ tsp salt
100ml hot water  
50g frozen peas
1½ tsp garam masala
juice of ½ lime
small handful coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a wide heavy bottomed sauté pan and when hot (but not smoking) add the mustard and cumin seeds, cinnamon, and peppercorns and fry for a minute.

Turn the heat down and add the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger. Stir occasionally and cook for as long as possible (at least 20 minutes) and until the onions are golden brown.

Add the chicken, turmeric, cayenne and ground coriander and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer for ten minutes or so until it looks like the oil is starting to separate out then add the water and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Add the peas and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Finally add the garam masala and simmer for 5 minutes more.

Add the lime juice and chopped coriander, and serve with basmati rice.

Read More »

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Spicy Chicken & Vegetable Noodle Soup

It’s ages ago now that I actually cooked this - a good couple of weeks anyway - so I can’t really recall if there was a particular reason for it. Probably I just felt like something healthy and had spring greens & mooli to use up. And of course I do love a good Asia inspired broth or soup!

I scribbled this down while cooking at the time but it very much looks like a mix of two previous soups I’ve posted here and here, with slight adjustments to ingredients and quantities because of using chicken rather than beef or salmon. I wasn’t sure initially if I’d entirely pulled it off but I’m happy to report that it definitely grew on me.

Spicy Chicken & Vegetable Noodle Soup
Serves 2

140g chicken, sliced into fairly thin strips
2 tsp of sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch knob of ginger peeled & chopped
2 birds eye chillis, deseeded, deveined and cut into slivers (plus extra for garnish if you like)
1 litre weak chicken stock (ie use half the amount of stock to water that the instructions suggest)
4 spring onions, finely chopped & a quarter of the green parts reserved for garnish
2 tsp chili bean paste (douban jiang)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 whole star anise (plus ½ if you happen to have loose bits)
1 tsp palm sugar
½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
freshly ground white pepper
1 nest of dried noodles (about 50g)
100g mooli, cut into thin rounds
70g shitake mushrooms (about 6), thinly sliced
5 babycorn, sliced on the diagonal
large handful of spring greens, shredded
juice of ½ lime
chopped fresh coriander

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan over a fairly low heat then add the garlic, ginger, chilli and spring onions and sauté gently for about a minute.

Add the chili bean paste and stirfry for about 30 seconds. Splash in the wine then add the stock, the soy and fish sauces, star anise, sugar, the peppercorns and the mooli.

Bring the soup to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Add the babycorn and simmer for 10 mins more. Then mix in the chicken & mushrooms. Cook for a further 15 minutes until the chicken is tender and the mooli is cooked.

Look at the state of that saucepan!

Adjust the seasoning, adding more soy sauce, salt or sugar if required plus some freshly ground white pepper.

Finally add the noodles and simmer until the noodles are cooked (about four minutes) and then stir in the the lime juice. Spoon into large bowls and sprinkle over with the chopped coriander and spring onions, and perhaps some slivers of chilli.

Read More »

Monday, 6 February 2012

Chickpea, Potato & Spring Greens Curry

So this is the second of the Nigel Slater pulse recipes taken from the Guardian website, as mentioned recently.  I pretty much followed this to the letter, with the exception of swapping out kale, as in the original for spring greens. I think this may have been an error on my part - I usually tweak recipes, often quite heavily, with regard to spice and herb quantities but on this reason for some reason I didn’t. The result was that I was a little disappointed to be honest. It was quite nice, don’t get me wrong but just not as tasty as I thought it could or would be. Sorry Nigel!

It is however pretty quick and speedy for a week night dinner (and does admittedly improve for being reheated the next day) but if I try it again I will definitely increase the spices and the juice of perhaps half a lemon.

Chickpea, potato and spring greens curry
Serves 3

175g dried chickpeas (or 400g tin, drained and rinsed)
½ tsp cumin seeds, plus a little ­extra to serve
½ tsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp mustard seeds
1 hot, dried red chilli, crumbled
½ tsp ground turmeric
1.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 ½ tsp groundnut oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
350ml chicken or vegetable stock
200g potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
75g spring greens, finely shredded
Yogurt, to serve
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

If using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight or for 8 hours in at least double their volume of cold water. Then, the next day, drain, rinse and simmer them for about an hour and a half in fresh ­water, until tender, then drain.

If using tinned, obviously just drain and rinse

Put a dry frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds and the chilli for a couple of minutes ­until they smell ­really fragrant and the mustard starts to pop. Grind to a powder in a spice mill or with a pestle and mortar, and then mix in the turmeric and ginger.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium low heat, and fry the onion, stirring regularly, until soft and golden brown. About 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and spices, leave to cook for a minute or two, and add the stock.

Simmer for five minutes, then add the chickpeas and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender, and then add the spring greens.

Cook for a few minutes more until the greens are tender, then serve with a dollop of thick yogurt on top, along with a ­sprinkling of toasted cumin seeds and some coriander.

Read More »

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Tuna, Lemon & Herb Fettucine

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have an inordinate amount of stored pages from food magazine and supplements as well as recipe cards. This recipe was originally from one such Waitrose instore recipe card but when thinking of it (with all my cards in storage) I was luckily able to find it on the Waitrose site.

I have made here some adjustments to quantities, there was far too much lemon in the original and not enough capers, and ingredients with the addition of pinenuts, red pepper flakes and crushed fennel seeds. I’ve also used tuna in spring water where the original called for tuna in oil, as I prefer to control the amount of oil in my cooking. Importantly though, do use the best tuna you can lay your hands on (albacore is always a good bet) and do make sure it is sustainably sourced.

This is very simple, and very tasty. You don’t have to use both basil and parsley, choose one or the other as you see fit and of course both the red pepper flakes (or chilli flakes) and fennel seeds are entirely optional. But do enjoy, preferably with a glass of chilled, crisp white wine!

Tuna, lemon and herb fettucine
Serves 2

160g fettucine (or other thin, long pasta)
225g jar albacore tuna fillets in spring water
4 tsp capers, roughly chopped
grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
5g fresh basil leaves
5g flat leaf parsley leaves (discard tough stalks),
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 tbsp pinenuts
4 tsp olive oil
freshly coarsely ground black pepper to serve

Cook the fettucine according to package instructions in a large pan of well salted boiling water (about ten minutes) until al dente and drain.

Meanwhile toast the pinenuts in a small dry frying pan over a medium heat. Chiffonade the basil and finely chop the parsley.

Drain the tuna and flake into a bowl then add the capers, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, pinenuts and herbs.

Toss the drained pasta with the tuna mixture and olive oil.

Serve, with with some freshly ground pepper and a sprig of basil.

Read More »