Ma Po Tofu – 麻婆豆腐

My first official #Veguary post. The yummy, spicy, mouth numbing Sichuanese tofu favourite. This isn’t the first veggiefied Chinese dish I’ve done. Like before you can use the exact amounts of real pork mince or vegetarian substitute. You have to eat this with rice, no exceptions.

Serves 4.

Ma Po Tofu:
450 g tender tofu (not too silken)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp ground garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
100 g mince (vegetarian or pork)
2 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 tsp fermented black beans, rinsed and lightly mashed
1 tsp garlic and black bean sauce
100 ml stock (veg or chicken)
pinch of sugar
1 tsp light soy
salt to taste
white pepper to taste
2 tbsp spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 pinch of white sesame seeds to garnish

Cut the tofu into 2 cm cubes. Place them in a large enough frying pan and carefully add boiling water to the pan until they are covered then add a small pinch of salt. This will make the tofu more tender to the bite. Set aside while you cook the rest.

Wok on medium-high heat. Once hot, add oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the Sichuan peppercorns, chilli flakes and ginger. Stir until fragrant. Add your mince and stir fry until browned.

Lower the heat and add the garlic, chilli bean paste, and black beans. I like to add the garlic and black bean sauce for that extra black bean punch. The oil should get lovely and red.

Add the stock and carefully drain the tofu and add to the wok. Season to taste with the sugar, soy and white pepper. Taste it before you add any extra salt, it should taste spicy and really rich. Simmer for at least 5 minutes.

You’re ready to serve up. Finish with the spring onions, a drizzle of sesame oil and sprinkle of sesame seeds.

 

The Best Damn Cornbread Muffins I Have Ever Made

cornbread muffins

First of all. My apologies. I haven’t posted in such a long time! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to post more, maybe once a week. Oops. But we know how resolutions normally go. Life has just got in the way with all sort of exciting events, trips and parties.

But I’m back now and since Thanksgiving has happened and, though not myself an American, some friends and I gather every year for a Thanksgiving Potluck. Which is *always* something I look forward to in my culinary calendar. This is a recipe from that. I made 2 things that night, a key lime meringue pie and these amazing muffins. I couldn’t believe how yummy these turned out, they’re the savoury variety, gluten-free and made with greek yogurt instead of buttermilk (as I always seem to be too lazy to get to a store that sells it) so I’m going to bravely say they’re healthier too – though I could be lying, they are just too damn delicious. These are way better and less fussy to make than my Spicy Tomato Cornbread so I’m really digging these right now. Makes 12.

Cornbread Muffins:
85 g melted butter, plus extra for frying
 2 x 198 g tins of sweetcorn, drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp whole dried chillies
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
110 g plain flour (I used gluten-free)
140 g polenta or cornmeal, fine variety
2 tsp baking powder
small pinch of salt
100 g sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
2 eggs
290 ml Greek yogurt
110 ml whole milk

Oven to 200°C. With a pastry brush, generously brush the melted butter in a 12 hole muffin tin. I ended up with about a 5mm pool collected at the bottom of each tin.

Next you want to add a small amount of butter to a frying pan at medium heat, and fry up the onions, garlic and sweetcorn. In a pestle and mortar smash-up the whole friend chillies. This seems like a lot of chilli, but you’ll be surprised how much baking these takes the heat out. This is just enough for a kick of heat as you’re eating them with your meal. No point of adding chilli to anything if you can’t taste it! Now add these crushed chillies, oregano, paprika and cayenne to the flying pan. Fry for about a minute until fragrant.

Mix the flour, polenta, baking powder, cheese and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller mixing jug, whisk your eggs, yogurt and milk together. Pour the eggs and dairy into the mixing bowl with dry ingredients, now add the corn and herbs. Gently mix all of this with a wooden spoon until just incorporated.

Divide this all equally into the muffin tray and bake for 25-30 minutes. They should have nicely risen, smell amazing and look lovely and golden brown. Eat them warmed up, you won’t regret making these. So yummy!

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.

‘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…

Vietnamese Grilled Aubergine with Nouc Cham Sauce

vietnamese grilled aubergineIt’s been too hot in my flat. So all I want to cook of late is dips, salads and wraps. Oh Vietnamese food, you have so many dishes I adore under this category…

Aubergines are in season and this dish is one of my favourite and simplest dishes to rustle up with said veg. But mostly its the delicious nouc cham that I love, so crack open an empty jam jar and make a load of this addictive sauce.

Nouc Cham Sauce:
100 ml fish sauce
100 ml of water
125 g brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic - minced
4 bird's eye chillies - deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 carrot - finely shredded

Mix up the fish sauce, sugar and water. Add to this the garlic, chilli, lime juice and shredded carrot. Thoroughly stir it all up and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Now you’re ready to grill your aubergine.

Grilled  Aubergine:
1 large aubergine
3 tbsp nouc cham sauce
Handful of peanuts - toasted
1 tbsp spring onions - finely chopped
Some coriander to garnish

Get the grill on high. Pierce your aubergine near the leafy bits a could of time to stop the Exploding Aubergine from happening (this has happened to me twice…I had to scrape the oven clean of the perfectly cooked bits of veggie shrapnel). Put the whole aubergine in whole and just keep an eye on it, turn it ever so often and the skin doesn’t burn beyond the nice charred flavour. Depending on your oven and grill it should take about 20-40 minutes. If you want to can oven roast it first at around 200°C then finish it off on the grill. Once it soft and sagging you’re ready!

Place the aubergine on a dish and slice it open. Add to this the nouc cham sauce, the toasted peanuts, coriander and spring onions.

Simple Cold Tofu – 冷豆腐

Cold TofuHappy Easter everyone! It’s sunny and I’ve had a pretty eventful and relaxing break. What more could you ask for? House parties, brunch, museums, coffee, catchups, drinks, potluck, cleaning, DIY, bookkeeping….*tick tick tick tickety tick*

So my excuse for the lack of posting was that I was actually in the Alps snowboarding and drinking hot wine with friends in this beautiful winter wonderland magical paradise. I’m not going to lie, it was amazing and sadly I’m already starting to forget that delicious feeling of breathing in frosty air. Prior to my week off in the snow I went to nutritionist who not only put me on a probiotic replacement therapy course, but also kindly informed me that I should avoid wheat and dairy for a month…to which I simply replied:

“But, I’m going to France!”

It was tough, but I think I did alright (a mad crazed fondue incident aside). Which brings me neatly (not really) to this popular tofu dish that I make all the time, which made not one but three appearances during my Chinese New Year shin dig. And happily for others out there who are vegetarian, wheat and dairy intolerant, you too can make and consume this dish.

Simple Cold Tofu:
A packet of silken tofu - firm or soft good
Spring onions - finely chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce (GF if poss)
2 tsp dark soy sauce
(GF if poss)
2 tsp Sesame oil
1/2 tsp Fresh ginger - grated
1 tbsp mushroom floss
pinch chilli flakes or fresh chilli
pinch sesame seeds
1 tbsp roasted peanuts - crushed

If you have time to kill, the following will make the tofu even silkier and remove some of that out-of-a-box taste. It’s not necessary, but it’s nicer. Get it out of its packaging and place it on a small plate. Boil a pot of water with enough water to submerge your tofu. Once boiled, remove the pot from the heat and submerge the tofu and plate for 20 minutes. Drain, and set it aside to cool. You can put it over ice, or whack it in the fridge, it’s up to you.

When you’re ready to serve, slice the tofu thinly, drizzle with the soy sauces and sesame oil, get the spring onions on. Add the chilli, grated ginger, sesame seeds, peanuts and mushroom floss*…

*Okay, I probably need an aside is needed for this little addition. This is the vegetarian version of ingredient that for health/religious reasons my mum no longer really eats so I get gifted the veggie version whenever I go back to Hong Kong. But for those of you relatively au fait with Chinese or Thai snack foods, the following statement is irrefutable: Pork floss is delicious.

If you have never heard of pork floss, it is *exactly* as it says on the tin. It’s seasoned pork that’s spun into a savoury meaty candy floss. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s that kind of black food magic which makes the world go round. Go try some. Preferably on those moorish spicy rice crackers…who do I know in Thailand at the moment to get me some?…who…do…I…

…hang on. Sorry I got side tracked. Basically, you get it. This tofu dish is supremely adaptable. If you’ve got your three main flavours of soy, sesame oil and spring onions, you can add essentially anything you want. Be it crushed garlic, a splash of black chinese vinegar, a raw quail egg, natto, grated yam, umeboshi, grated carrot, a thousand year old egg, coriander. Maybe not everything I’ve listed at once. Experiment and make some: it’s simple.

Spicy Chinese Pickled Cabbage

Spicy Chinese Pickled Cabbage

Happy Year of the Snake everyone! Last week my little kitchen was burning the candle at both ends to get some delicious treats out for a CNY party last night, which I literally decided to throw on Monday. A surprising amount of people agreed to come considering the late notice, it being a Sunday and the snow, so a warm glowy feeling was had by ushering the new year over great food and friends. As per usual at my foodie parties, people had to be rolled out, so the following posts here at Minikin Kitchen will really be me catching up with what I cooked throughout the week ending with the on the day dumpling making sessions. Ahhh…Chinese New Year. I love you.

So. Let’s start with this spicy, sour and slightly sweet offering of chinese pickled cabbage. My veg box last thursday happened to contain Chinese Leaf (or Nappa Cabbage across the pond) as well as carrots. Serendipitous or what?  You can if you want substitute the Chinese leaf with a head of regular white cabbage, which will result in a firmer bite.

Pickled Cabbage:
1 large Chinese leaf cabbage - cut into 1.5 inch squares
2 carrots - thinly sliced into half moon shapes
4 fresh bird's eye chillies - deseeded and thinly sliced
1-2 inch piece of ginger - thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp rice wine (the clear one)
1 tbsp salt

This is pretty easy side dish to prep in advance. Cut and put all the veg in a large tupperware box or jar, anything with a lid strong enough for you to shake everything up.

Heat up the vinegar and dissolve all the sugar and salt. Once it’s all dissolved add the rice wine and the peppercorns. Now add this to all the veg and shake it all up. The veg will shrink in volume over time adding loads of water to the mixture. What I ended up doing is whacking it all in a big Kilner jar and every morning and night rotate and stand the jar upside down (or right side up) to shift and coat it all. I made this on the Thursday evening and did a taste test Friday evening, so these quantities are the results of my adjustments.

Serve it up using a slotted spoon or chopsticks, you don’t want to serve it swimming in the pickling liquid. It does have a spicy kick, and although my friends enjoyed it, I’d start with 2 chillies and do a taste test a day or two in. I really like spicy food, but I’m into enjoying food not enduring it.

CNY 2013

Salsify: The Poor Man’s Oyster?

There was a very interesting addition in my veg box recently. Wrapped carefully in brown paper were what looked like four 10 inch branches of a tree covered in a layer of dried mud. “…” I thought, as I washed them clean and guessed at burdock. Only to discover (after ferreting out my receipt) that I’d actually received some salsify. I have never eaten salsify before although I vaguely remember reading some recipe recommending making chips out of them. How boring.

A quick search on the inter webs today informed me that the salsify root is also known as the ‘oyster plant’ as it tastes a bit like those delicious morsels of the sea. I absolutely adore oysters and after peeling a bit of root and tasting it raw and then quickly blanching and tasting another piece, I can report that these oyster allusions are pure: lies. What it does taste like however, is a cross between lotus root, water chestnuts and coconut flesh. Which instantly made me think of my Aunty Ann’s lotus root fritters and that I really must learn how to make next time I’m back in Hong Kong…anyway. Fritters. Salsify fritters. Let’s go:

Salsify Fritter Ingredients:
Approx. 300 g salsify cleaned of mud - pre peeled weight
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tbsp minced lemon grass
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or one small red chilli - diced)
3 tbsp coriander - roughly chopped (save some to garnish)
1 egg - lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
Sea salt & ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Peel and coarsely grate your salsify, once those roots become too fragile to peel, chop them up to match the grated bits. Add a tablespoon of butter into a frying pan at medium heat and sauté the salsify until tender. Transfer into a bowl and mix well with the garlic, lemongrass, chilli, paprika, coriander, egg and flour. Basically mix every except the butter and olive oil. Generously season with the salt and pepper.

Frying pan back on the stove at medium heat and put the remaining tablespoon of butter in with the olive oil. This helps your butter reach a higher heating point without it burning.

Get a tray, coat it with some flour. Dust your hands in that flour and quickly form a fritter with your dusty hands – once moulded rest it in the flour tray. Dust. Form. Dust. Form. You should make around 5-6 fritters.

When the oil and butter mixture is hot enough to sizzle. Fry the fritters until golden brown on each side. About 5 minutes each. When done, place them on a paper towel to drain them.

Serve up and garnish with some extra coriander leaves. I served these tasty fritters with poached egg, a slice of lime, and an easy salad of romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. The salad was dressed with an Asian dressing made up of sesame oil, rice vinegar, light soy and a mix of sesame seeds. I quickly made this to taste…but if I were to guess my proportions I’d say 1 tbsp of each liquid with 1 tsp of the seeds. Squeeze that lime over your fritters and consume!

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