Shakshuka

shakshuka

This is an amazingly satisfying dish to knock up for breakfast or brunch. It’s happily made in my kitchen to soothe any woes on the weekend. I made this recently with some ridiculously easy to make savory pop-ups (think breakfast muffins crossed with Yorkshire puddings) to mop up the saucy sauce. There are anchovies in this, so omit them if you would like this to be veggie. Serves 4 generously.

Shakshuka:
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
150 ml rapeseed oil or light veg oil
2-3 banana shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 long sweet peppers (1 red & 1 yellow), thinly sliced
4 tsp dark muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
4 tbsp coriander, finely chopped (plus extra to garnish)
6 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4-6 anchovy fillets (the salty oil preserved kind)
1 tsp saffron threads
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of dried chillies
Salt & pepper
Approx. 250 ml water
6-8 eggs

Get a large skillet to medium-high heat. Once hot, dry roast the cumin seeds for a minute or so until they smell fragrant. Add your oil and sauté your shallots for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook them for about a minute, careful they don’t burn. The peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme and coriander go in next for about 5-10 minutes. Until they turn a lovely colour.

Now add your tomatoes, anchovies, saffron, cayenne, chillies and a bit of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the thickness and consistency, you want this like a thick pasta sauce so add your water gradually throughout the cooking process to keep it at the right level of sauciness. Once this is ready check your seasonings, it should be really flavoursome.

Heat at low. Remove the bay leaves from the pan. Use a wooden spoon the make craters in the pepper and tomato mixture and gently crack an egg into each of the holes. Sprinkle with some more salt and pepper and get a pan lid on. Gently cook the eggs for around 10 minutes. I like to watch this part obsessively as I want to keep my yolks runny. When the eggs are *just* set and even still a little bit raw in the egg whites I like to take the skillet off the heat and serve the whole pan on the table ready for eating. The remaining heat of the shakshuka will perfectly cook the eggs. Sprinkle with and bit of the remaining coriander and eat!

It’s worthwhile noting that this is an easily changeable dish depending on what you have left over in the fridge. Bit of gravy from the night before? Whack it in. Fetta? Preserved lemons? Get them in! Left over bit’s and pieces are so easily used up in this beautiful breakfast stew.

Healthy Pancakes

healthy pancakes I’m not even going to try and convince you why these are healthy. They just are. And they’re delicious. It’s a recipe I’ve found through almost a year of experimenting with “The Healthy Pancake” which is more or less the holy grail of indulgent breakfast desires. But these *are* significantly healthier than your regular pancakes. This combo is a riff off the popular “Two Ingredients Pancake” with the addition of baking flour and a pinch of salt. Which still makes these babies: gluten, wheat, and dairy free. The following makes enough for 8 small pancakes.

Healthy Pancakes:
1 large banana, ripe
2 eggs
1 tsp baking flour
1 pinch of sea salt flakes
Some rapeseed oil

What I’ve found in the past is an issue with flipping these, or even sizing. So I’ve developed a bit of a work around to this which you may or may not want to follow, but I use two pans. One normal non stick frying pan and an egg frying pan to control the size. Because. Well I’m a designer by trade. Anyway, get these both on the hobs at low-medium heat. Add a tiny bit of the oil (not butter as it burns) and with a paper kitchen towel lightly coat each pan with the oil. You’ll need to do this every time you cook a new batch.

In a blender break your banana roughly into 3 segments, add the rest of your ingredients. Pulse until the banana is *just* mixed, I use 4-5 pulses and there are still maybe little bits of banana, this is okay as it helps with the rise of the batter. When your pans are at heat, pour the batter into small rounds, wait a few minutes until bubbles start to form. Use a palette knife to loosen the bases (if not following my slightly anal technique, flip now). Place the other pan on top and flip over! Easy, now let the other side cook for a few minutes while you re-oil and cook the rest. Repeat as necessary.

That’s it! Cook as you may really but this is how I do them. When it comes to serving I smear a bit of almond butter between each layer and top with berries and maple syrup. Maybe a sprinkling of cinnamon…and some butter…Hey! I’m not insane, I said the pancakes themselves were healthy! Didn’t say they had to be tasteless!

Now, what do I categorise these under? I’m going for “eggs” & “cakes”…

DIY Nut butters

Nut butter I absolutely refuse to buy nut butters from shops now that I know how easy it is to make my own without all that extra processed crap in it. I like to do this with any left over baking nuts I have. I’m using ground almonds here, but you can apply this to cashews, walnuts, desiccated coconut…mmmm…

Almond butter:
100 g approx. ground almonds
a pinch of sea salt flakes

Just look at that ingredient list! Two! I mean, if you’re being fancy sure you can probably add honey or maple syrup and cinnamon…but you know: Keep it simple stupid (for now anyway).

Get your oven to 170°C, line a baking tray with some parchment and spread the nuts evenly exposing as much of them to the heat of the oven. Pop them in for about 10 minutes and keep checking to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and let them cool to room temperature.

Now whack the nuts and the pinch of salt into a food processor and blendity blend blend. Ground almonds and desiccated coconut take literally a couple of minutes to turn into the gooey loveliness, you can even use a hand blender I’ve found. You might need to use a rubber spatula occasionally to *scrape* *blend* *scrape* *blend*. For larger bits of nuts you’ll need a stronger food processor, but don’t doubt the process! Give your nuts at least 10 minutes and I promise they’ll go from chopped nuts to the magical joy of blended deliciousness.

Shrimp & Grits: Prawns & Polenta

shrimp and grits

I went to an Asian supermarket Friday evening and bought a rather large box of prawns. Those nice big juicy prawns, not those icky dinky ones. A pad Thai was made (which was delicious but I’m going to absolutely nail it recipe wise so that’ll be a later post)…and then a sort of prawn linguine was made for dinner and yet I still had left over prawns for another meal and I was seemingly at a loss as to what to cook. It was only after browsing a kitchen cupboard and seeing a bag of polenta that inspiration came.

It’s extraordinary how much American food knowledge I actually have in my head and how little I’ve actually been there. There must be some sort of universal love of soul food or at least comforting warming gooey textures that everyone must like. Or at least me. I bloody love soul food.

So for those uninitiated, ‘Shrimp & Grits’ translates to: lovely stir fired prawns (or sautéd if you’re being posh), sat a top a gorgeously unctuous soft polenta.

Serves 2.

Shrimp & Grits:
1/2 cup polenta
About a cup of grated parmesan
1 tbsp butter
1 cup stock
1 cup boiled water (or more as needed)
12 Shrimp - shelled & deveined
1 tbsp Rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
2 rashers of bacon - diced
2 spring onions - finely diced
1 garlic clove - crushed
6 fingers of Okra - roughly chopped
4 Brown chestnut mushrooms - quartered
Dash of tabasco
Splash of Worcester sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 wedges lemon

Get some water boiled first, you’ll need this to make sure the polenta is the right soft texture. Heat the stock in a saucepan, once boiling you’ll want to whisk continuously whist slowly adding the polenta into the sauce pan. This will take approximately 20 minutes to cook. Keep checking and whisking the polenta occasionally. Also keep an eye on the liquid content, you may want to gradually add splashes of boiled water to maintain the correct texture. Aim for a thick porridge constancy, where you can just see the bottom of the pan as you whisk.

Now tend to the topping. In a frying pan at medium heat your oil, and when this is hot add the garlic then the bacon. Once the bacon is nearly done add the okra, mushrooms. Stir fry these for about a minute then add the prawns. Keep stir frying and tossing until the prawns start to turn pink. Now add the spring onions and the tobacco and Worcester sauces.  Season to taste. Get the pan off the heat and finish the polenta.

Your polenta should be cooked and just the right texture now, add the grated cheese. Season should you need to and finally stir in the butter.

In a shallow bowl, spoon in the polenta and make a bit of a well. Now spoon over the prawn mixture and serve with a wedge of lime.

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Success! After about two failed loafs I have now cracked a gluten-free recipe for some tasty banana bread. I’ve been experimenting with my own mixture of cornmeal, rice flour and almond flour but the results were too firm and too dry. So I caved and bought some Dove Farm white flour and tweaked my recipe accordingly. I’ve definitely just eaten a slice and it’s really yummy! So I can finally post it up.

To make things even better, in my supreme efficiency (or let’s be honest: laziness) it’s all just 1 pot and so fast to knock up! So if you have a stand mixer, don’t even bother mashing the bananas, if you’ve only got a hand-held one, maybe mash them up a bit with a fork.

Gluten Free Banana Bread:
2 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 a block of butter softened (125 g)
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar (150 g)
2 eggs
6 ripe bananas (one set aside for decorating)
3 tbsp soft dark sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water

Oven onto 170°C. In your mixing bowl put the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in. Stir these dry ingredients up a bit. Then add the vanilla essence, butter, light brown sugar, eggs and 5 bananas (remember to set one of the 6 aside).

Now turn the mixer on low to medium speed and prep your bread pan.

Butter the pan thoroughly and place a greaseproof sheet at the bottom. The mixing should be done now so pour in your batter. Slice lengthways your banana for decorating and place on top.

In a small bowl mix the 2 tbsp of dark soft sugar with just enough hot water to dissolve it all. With a pastry brush, carefully  wash the top of the raw batter mixture and banana with 2/3 of the sugar mix. While this bakes it should turn into a crunchy caramel topping.

Bake for 60-65 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. In the final 5 minutes use the remaining sugar wash. Leave the banana bread in the pan for another 10-15 minutes before removing and it should come out really easily after you go round the edges with a knife.

I couldn’t help but try a still warm piece straight away! Honestly, fastest bake to blog post ever.

Lotus Root & Braised Pork Belly in Fermented Tofu Sauce – 蓮藕燜豬肉

lotus root braised pork bellyThere are times when the evenings are too cold in London, work is too stressful and I just feel a bit homesick and really miss Hong Kong. At times like these, it’s always that taste-of-home-like-mum-makes-it which really hits the spot. This particular dish is a Cantonese staple and a huge favourite of mine. It’s salty, saucy and you have to eat it with rice. The lotus root is a vegetable that has starchy potato like qualities whilst also keeping a satisfying bite, and the fermented tofu sauce has a strong umami flavour. I’ve read that it’s been likened to cheese, but I guess it’s just one of those things that I’ve eaten from childhood so it’s just fermented tofu flavour to me. So first things first you’ll probably need to get your mitts on some fermented tofu (紅腐乳) from your local oriental supermarket. There are also dried mushrooms in this dish, so you will need to pre-soak these in a bowl of water with another bowl stacked on top to fully rehydrate them for at least an hour.

Lotus Root & Braised Pork Belly:
500 g pork belly
500 g lotus root
6 dried shitake mushrooms, pre-soaked and halved
2 inch knob of ginger
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 bricks fermented red bean curd (紅腐乳)
2 star anise
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp sesame oil
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

Cut the pork belly into 2-3 inch chunks. Set aside. Peel the piece of ginger and with the large flat side of a meat cleaver SMASH IT FLAT, peel the garlic and repeat the smashing (if you don’t have a big meat cleaver, a meat tenderiser is fine). Peel and cut the lotus root into similar sizes to your pork and give the occasionally large piece a similar smash with the side of the cleaver (violent hey? Good for de-stressing this). My mum tells me it’s to get more flavour in, I think she just likes smashing things. Rinse off the lotus root and add leave them in a container full of water and a bit of salt to stop them from discolouring.

You now want to make a simple marinade. In a separate mixing bowl (large enough for all the pork) add the light soy, dark soy, rice wine, sesame oil, salt and sugar. Stir thoroughly and set aside.

Get your wok on medium to high heat and when the wok is nice and hot add your vegetable oil, once this is piping hot add the ginger then the garlic and flavour that oil but be careful not to burn the garlic. Remove the garlic and ginger and set aside. You now want to sear the pork belly, it’s okay not to thoroughly cook it at this stage as it will go through a lot of braising, just carefully brown each side of the pork.

Once this is done, remove the pork and place it in the marinade, coat evenly and set aside.

With your wok still on, add back the ginger and the garlic and stir fry until fragrant again. Add to this the mushroom halves. Once they start smelling lovely add the fermented tofu with a cup of water and use the wok spatula to flatten and mix the blocks into a paste. Sieve the lotus root from the water and add the root to the wok. Stir stir stir. Coat coat coat. Now add the pork belly and all the marinade from the bowl. Finally add the star anise and enough water to just coat everything. Take the heat down to a simmer and leave for 2 hours always making sure to stir everything up occasionally and top up the water if needed. Test the pork, once this is soft and tender you’re ready to go. I hope you made some rice with that.

‘Gluten Sensitive’ & Buttermilk Free: Spicy Tomato Cornbread

cornbread

I was really struggling with the title for this post. But essentially this is a gluten sensitive bread baked with cornmeal and spelt flour, it’s at this point that I should add that if you’re a celiac or very sensitive to gluten you should probably replace this with a gluten-free flour of your desire (rice flour works well). Anyway, I’ve always loved cornbread, but maybe because I’m a bit greedy, I have always preferred the loaded variety. So within the bread you’ll find kernels or corn, bits of chilli, oven dried tomatoes and waves of cumin. This is also a buttermilk free recipe and I’ve substituted it with almond milk, mostly because buttermilk is just so damn hard to find (read: it wasn’t in any of my local shops with in a 100 metre walking radius to my flat)…and I really just wanted to eat warmed slices of this bread with butter and Vegemite dammit! Would also work quite well with plain yogurt instead of the almond milk if you want it to be richer.

It’s a fast bread to make (bonus) and bakes in a large 9 inch bread tin, but I split it into 2 tins just in case it rose too much.

Spicy Tomato Cornbread:
2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cups spelt or gluten free flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp honey
1.5 cups almond milk
2 large eggs
70 g butter - melted
handful cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
1 small red onion - diced
3-5 birds eye chillies - diced
1 cup corn kernels

First get the oven to 200 °C and prep your baking tins with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and place them on a lined baking tray, evenly space each of the quarters out. Liberally sprinkle with the cumin seeds and paprika with a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper to season. Place the tomatoes in the oven and wait for them to cook down, maybe 20 minutes. While that’s cooking, melt the butter and set aside. Get the cornmeal, flour, teaspoon of salt, baking powder, sugar into a stand mixer (or mix by hand if you’d like, you must have strong arms) on medium speed until well combined. In a separate jug, mix the eggs, butter, almond milk and honey. Poor this mixture in with the dry ingredients slowly until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the tomatoes and all the spices (slide everything off that baking sheet), then add the onion, chilli and corn until everything is gently but evenly dispersed.

Put the mixture into you prepped baking tins and bake for at least 40 minutes. But keep checking with a skewer to see if your bread’s done. It should be golden brown on the top and the skewer should come out clean. Turn out of tins and cool.

I couldn’t resist eating a couple of slices of this hot out of the oven with some butter and said Vegemite. It was a craving that just had to be done. Also had some with Marmite. Just as good. Later in the evening I had this with chicken stew…you know it’s just so damn tasty…

Overnight Oats or Bircher Muesli Basic Recipe

bircher muesli

Breakfasts for a long time now have been a staple of scrambled eggs, with some slices of avocado or smoked salmon. But the season’s have started to change and all I want to eat now appears to be fruit salad and plain yogurt. In the interest of keeping things interesting I’ve started experimenting with various recipes of Bircher muesli or overnight oats. I’ve recently been buying some gluten-free oats and it’s opened up a whole new thankful world of porridge again, albeit the cold variety.

This is a mega adaptable and incredibly easy as it’s all about doing it quickly the night before and you don’t really want to be faffing around with too many measuring cups. This is enough for two tumblers full, so serves two.

Bircher Muesli Basic Recipe:
1 apple or Asian pear
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup natural set yogurt
1/2 cup fruit juice
1/4 cup raisins or saltanas
Handful of fruit and nuts to serve
Honey should you fancy it

Peel the apple or pear. I’ve used Granny Smiths, Pink Ladies and nashi pears. Anything firm and tart is good. Grate the apple through a medium grate or the finest tooth setting on a mandolin and chop it up into extra fine bits. Add this to a large mixing bowl with the oats, yogurt, raisins and juice. For the juice you can go with apple, orange, pear or even pineapple juice. The last batch I made with apple and mango juice and it was lovely. Stir everything together and put them into some tumblers and leave in the fridge overnight for the next morning. When ready to eat, garnish with some fresh fruit and nuts and maybe a drizzle of honey should you want it. Maybe even a sprinkling of cinnamon or flaxseed. Go nuts.

So easy, fresh and satisfying.

Polenta Pizza

Guys! Guys! Guys! So I’ve not posted savoury food for a while, not because I haven’t been eating (obviously) but because I hadn’t cooked anything that I thought was inspired enough to wax lyrical about. But by the exclamation mark count at a massive three already – here is me waxing lyrical.

Yesterday after what would rank up there as the most Relaxing Sunday Ever where myself and a significant person went for an all day wander through a park which culminated in an impromptu coffee with a friend, said significant person and I decided to make some homemade pizza for dinner. Only what with me not eating gluten we decided to make a polenta pizza and it was so flipping good! Honestly, you don’t even have to be gluten intolerant to enjoy this. Other massive bonus. It can be relatively easy to knock up as you don’t have to wait for the dough to prove. Essentially you’re cooking up some polenta in the traditional manner, but making it as thick as possible so it sets quicker and has a bit more structure post bake. Toppings wise we just went classic with a bit of tomato sauce (but made with plum vine tomatoes), mozzarella, and some slices of cured Spanish ham.

Polenta Pizza Base:
700 ml vegetable stock
170 g polenta, coarse type favoured
100 g grated parmesan
Pizza Toppings:
125 g mozzarella
200 g approx. tomato sauce
6 slices of cured ham - lomo in this case
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to finnish
crushed black paper and sea salt

Oil a non stock pan big enough for your pizza.

In a saucepan at medium heat, bring your stock to a boil and while whisking furiously in one direction only (to avoid clumps) add your polenta in a fine stream. Keep stirring at all times to avoid your polenta from sticking to the pan and get this mixture nice and thick and reduced. You want to get it so thick that when you whisk it barely settles back in the pan. At this stage, probably 15-20 minutes down the line (read: strong arms), you want to add the grated parmesan.

Quickly pour your polenta on the previously prepped pan and use the bake of a metal spoon spread out a pizza base shape, complete with slightly raised crust along the edge. Work fast, this will set quickly. Set this aside to cool.

While this is cooling get that oven to 220°C. Make your tomato sauce and prep your toppings. Once your oven is to temperature and your polenta is sufficiently set (cool to the touch and has a nice bounce to it), quickly dress the pizza. Save the olive oil, salt and pepper for when it’s fresh out of the oven. Whack your pizza in and bake it until it’s nice and browned on the crust and the cheese is bubbling. Ours took approximately 20 minutes.

Carefully use a spatula to loosen the pizza from the pan, you should know that the bake is good because it will be crispy on the bottom. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and drizzle that olive oil. Eat immediately.

I cannot express the sheer amount of pleasure this dish produced, if you’re talking about a great dish of soul food, this is certainly up there and resulted in me doing a happy food dance before I chowed down.

Baked Cheesecake

baked cheesecakeIt’s well into February now, are we over the New Year detox yet? This was meant to be a Polish Cheesecake that I made over Christmas for my family in Hong Kong. I have no idea what makes this a Polish cheesecake but there were a couple of baked cheesecakes in my mum’s old recipe book and this is my riff on one of them. Maybe I’ll try the German one next time I’m back and I can tell you which one is better. The reason why this is a riff on the recipe is because of instead of buying normal cottage cheese, I bought one with sliced gherkins mixed in. Don’t worry! This isn’t some crazy cream cheese and pickle cake (although I imagine that to be weirdly nice). I had some cream cheese and milk in the fridge so I used that instead.

Baked Cheese Cake (meant to be Polish):
6-7 tbs crushed digestive or tea biscuits
750 g cream cheese
The zest and juice of 1 lemon
180 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp corn flour
150 ml milk
3 eggs separated
170 ml double cream

Oven at 160°C. Grease 20 cm loose bottomed baking tin. Add those crushed biscuits to the bottom, add more if you want a thicker base.

In a large bowl, beat cheese with lemon juice and rind until smooth. To this add the sugar, vanilla, cornflour, milk and egg yolks. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with an electric beater until stiff. Then in another bowl beat cream until thick. With a spatula you now want to alternatively fold the egg whites and cream into the cheese mixture. When combined pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for 45 minutes in the centre of the oven. Then turn the heat off and leave the cake in the oven for a further 30 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar (ram a heat-proof glove in the crack). Take the cake out and leave to cool before removing from the tin.

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