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.

 

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.

Salted Caramel Sauce

salted caramel sauce

Good grief. Do you know what I realised? Minikin Kitchen is 1 year old today! It’s been an interesting experiment into cooking and blogging. I just discovered a recipe of mine doing the rounds on Pinterest which is rather exciting. As I started this thing on Halloween and I’m prepping some treats for a Halloween party tomorrow, I thought I’d post something that I just knocked up. Be warned this stuff is way too ‘I’ll just dip my pinky into it’ addictive and anyone *anyone* who tells you they don’t like salted caramel is a bloody liar.

Salted Caramel:
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
110g butter
1/2 cup double cream
1 tbsp sea salt flakes

On medium to high heat, get a heavy bottomed stove on and melt your sugar. With a metal spoon, only stir the sugar occasionally to help it all dissolve evenly. If you want to use a sugar thermometer, you want this to reach 175°C but I have to admit, I kinda eyeballed this. You want it a rich golden brown colour and basically don’t want it to burn. Once it reaches the desired temp, add the butter and double cream and stir well. Now add the salt and set this aside to cool.

The temperature of the sugar really dictates the viscosity of this sauce, you’ll notice I’ve made a bit on the fudgy side, but if you want a runnier constancy add more double cream. I basically add this to most things. I drizzle it over yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, filled macarons with it…I even put it in the freezer to firm up and rolled little salt caramel balls and stuffed them in homemade chocolate truffles (stroke of genius if I do say so myself).

Addictive and indulgent. A fitting birthday post.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt

Charred Aubergine Dip

I’ve just come back from Puglia in the south of Italy with a group of friends. It was a cycling trip where we essentially cycled our bikes, swam in the azure seas and cycled some more until we were hungry, then proceeded to eat and drink an awful lot. The food there is so earnest and simple. They have access to some of the most incredible ingredients in the world because of their amazing climate, so they’re only interested in basic cooking to elevate the natural flavours. I’m really in to that.

Back in London we are in the midsts of this weird Summer vibe where it seems that the general en-mass willing of summer not to be over *just* yet has resulted in some pretty warm october nights. This dip is something I prepared as part of a romantic picnic in the summer solstice, so it seems only fitting to revisit it again with the warm hazy glow of Puglia and my own Londonian attempts to squeeze the very last of summer out. It’s simple and delicious.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt (Serves 2-4):
1 large aubergine
70g tahini paste
60 ml water
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 generous squeeze of a lemon
1 garlic clove - crushed
3 mini cucumbers - diced
seeds from half a pomegranate
3 tbsp parsley - roughly chopped
2-3 generous dollops of greek yogurt
a drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

On a gas hob, place the aubergine directly onto a medium flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently. The flesh should end up soft and smoky with the skin burnt all over. Alternatively, if you haven’t got gas hobs, crank up that oven high, 200°C maybe, and whack your aubergine in and keep turning it in that heat. 20-40 minutes in, the skin should also char and the aubergine should sag telling you the flesh is all lovely and soft. On a similar warning to my last aubergine post: Poke a couple of holes near the stem part of the aubergine to stop it exploding in the oven.

Once your aubergine is done, transfer all that lovely soft flesh into a medium mixing bowl. To this add the tahini, molasses, water, lemon juice, garlic, cucumber, parsley, paprika, yogurt, half the pomegranate seeds and some salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Drizzle with olive oil and the rest of the pomegranate seeds to finish. Eat!

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.

Tea Eggs – 茶葉蛋

Tea EggsI love tea eggs, they’re so yummy, the smell of them cooking reminds me of home, and they look so pretty with their marbling. For Chinese New Year I made quail egg versions so guests had little tasty morsels instead of a whole chicken egg. Traditionally you leave the shell on and peel it when you want to eat it, but I didn’t want my friends faffing around with all that peeling. I’m not sure, however, that I would recommend peeling 36 quail eggs…

Below is a recipe for 6 chicken eggs or 18 quail eggs.

Tea Eggs:
500 ml of water
1 cup light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
2 tsp of sugar
3 pieces of star anise
2 generous tbsp of black tea
Stick of cinnamon
A pinch of white pepper
A pinch of black pepper

Put a pot on the stove and start boiling the water. Wash your eggs and place them in to boil. If using chicken eggs – boil for 8 mins; Quail eggs – 2 minutes. When they’re done, remove them with a slotted spoon and let them cool off until you can handle them. With the back of a metal spoon you want to gently bash the eggs all over, you don’t want to pierce the membrane just beneath the shell though, so don’t get too carried away. I think smaller cracks are prettier.

While you’re doing this add the soy sauce and all the other ingredients to the pot of just boiled water and bring it all to a boil again. Simmer the tea leaves for 5 minutes.  Now add your pre-cracked eggs and turn the heat off. Remove the pot from the heat source and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, decant everything into a large enough sealable container and steep them in the fridge for at least 8 hours. The longer you leave them. The better they taste.

quail eggs

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

Caramel Flan V1

flan

Gah…so January’s been eventful already! I’ve been so good with eating healthily as per the rituals of The January Detox (I’m currently eating a bowl of steamed purple sprouting broccoli…no jokes) that I started to reminisce about this mega easy flan I made for a huge Christmas feast last December.

Now there’s a reason that this recipe is called version 1, because this produces quite a firm flan with more of a bite than a creme caramel’s soft unctuousness, but it’s yummy, velvety and uses whole eggs. Which is handy if you don’t really have the time to separate your yolks and have left over egg bits. PLUS it’s probably the only non-cooking recipe I’ll post here because it uses tins of evaporated milk and condensed milk. But once I crack the perfect soft flan that doesn’t liquify on turning out, version 2 will be out with a gusto. I can promise you that.

Mega Easy Flan:
1 cup caster or granulated sugar
1 tbsp water
3 eggs
1 (14 ounce) can condensed milk
1 (12 ounce) can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup of whole milk
1 tbsp vanilla essence

Get your oven to 170°C.

Put the sugar, and tablespoon of water in a heavy bottomed pan on stove on medium heat. Without shaking the pan, wait for the sugar to caramelise. Careful not to let it burn, you can use a metal spoon to stir it all together towards the end, but in general with making caramel just leave and watch it. While it’s getting on its way to all lovely and golden, take the dish you’ll cooking your flan in (I used a 10 inch pyrex dish) and place it in the oven for a bit just to warm it up. This just stops the caramel from seizing up in a cold dish.

So once the caramel’s done (try not to place the spoon covered in liquid hotter than the sun in your mouth) carefully pour it in your dish and swirl it all around set it aside and let it cool.

In a large bowl, pour in all the condensed milk and carefully stir in the eggs. ‘Stir’ being the operative word, you don’t want to vigorously whip it all up and create air bubbles. Once throughly mixed add the evaporated milk, whole milk and vanilla essence and combine it all together.

Decant your creamy mixture through a sieve into your caramel dish. Cover with foil. Now place this into a water bath in the oven. So that’s a larger deeper oven tray filled with water until it reaches halfway up the flan dish. Bake for 60 mins. Or until the centre is no longer liquid when you wobble it a bit.

Leave it to cool thoroughly and when you’re ready to serve, run a sharp knife round it, place a plate on top and flip that flan over. Feeds 6-8.

Chinese Salted Eggs – 鹹蛋

salted eggs

I mentioned a salted egg and prawn dish I made with my Aunt a couple of weeks ago. Which aptly coincided rather neatly to my mother preserving her own eggs over Christmas.

W.I eat your heart out.

As I’ve never salted them before and my mum swears it tastes a million times better, I thought I’d get some duck eggs and give it a shot.

Salted Eggs:
6 duck eggs
3/4 cup of salt
1/2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
3 tbsp rice wine
3 cups boiling water

Wash your duck eggs. In a clean jar put the salt and boiled water together, stir until all the salt has dissolved. Add the rice wine and peppercorns. Wait until the liquid is room temp before you add your duck eggs. Leave for at least 1 month.

So I’ll post some recipes involving these bad boys in at least a months time. Laters.

Crusted Pumpkin with a Yogurt Dip

Crusted Pumpkin

It’s the first week back to work for me, and boy has 2013 started off with a bang. I feel like I’ve had the hit the ground running from the airport since arriving back from Hong Kong. It’s also really rather cold in London compared to the shockingly low temps of 11°C I had to endure over the holiday so all I want to eat is warming comfort food. Amazingly I had all the ingredients for this at home, plus it uses up breadcrumbs that tend to sit around forever in the cupboard. What’s not to like?

Crusted Pumpkin:
a small pumpkin
A large handful of grated parmesan
A smaller handful of panko breadcrumbs
A handful parsley - finely chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Zest of a lemon
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
A few cracks of black pepper
4 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp sumac

Oven to 190°C. Cut your pumpkin into 1 cm wedges, leave the skin on. Get them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. In a separate bowl mix all of the crust ingredients together (except for the yogurt and sumac), you can use ordinary breadcrumbs of course, but I don’t have any of those. Besides, get yourself a bag of panko it’s way *way* nicer. You’ll wait to taste your mix before adding salt as the cheese will be salty.

Brush the pumpkin slices generously with the oil and coat them with the crust mixture, you’ll want a few millimetres of the deliciousness. Gently pat the mixture to bind it better.

Whack it in the oven for around 30 minutes. I’ve burnt mine a wee bit as I left them in a bit long. Oh well. Texture!

While that’s cooking mix up your yogurt dip with some salt, pepper, maybe a bit of olive oil or cream if it’s not the consistency that you want. Sprinkle with the sumac before serving. Get those wedges out of the oven when done and maybe squeeze some lemon juice over them. Super easy and fun to eat.

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