Archive | Main RSS feed for this section

Ratatouille

28 Oct

Ratouille is a classic French vegetable stew of aubergines, peppers, courgette, onions and tomatoes, served as a side dish or with pasta.

I’ve tried a number of recipes for ratatouille over the years. Some insist that each vegetable is cooked separately before being layered together, but I’ve found that to be an unnecessary amount of faff.

The main thing is to cook the vegetables in the correct order, avoid overcooking, keep the seasonings simple, and allow the ratatouille to rest before eating at room temperature (or reheating).

Continue reading

Pav bhaji

7 Oct

Pav bhaji is one of those dishes you need to try for yourself to discover how satisfying it is.

I first encountered pav bhaji at a street food market. After doing a complete circuit of the food on offer, I opted for what looked to be a curry sandwich.

The bun (pav) was toasted, buttered and warm. The curry (bhaji) was thick, mashed — almost spreadable — and topped with red onion, coriander leaves, and a pat of butter.

It was utterly delicious and spot-hitting. Continue reading

Japanese curry

26 Apr

Japanese curry

Making Japanese curry from scratch for the first time was the high point of my week.

I discovered Japanese curry when I lived in Tokyo after finishing uni, and became an instant convert. I love the thick, slightly sweet taste of the sauce, and the way it sticks to the vegetables like a thick coat of paint.

What makes Japanese curry unique is the roux, which is sold in thick bars. I’ve always lived where Asian ingredients are easy to come by, and usually have a packet of Japanese curry in the cupboard.

You fry, then simmer, your veg, meat or tofu to the point of tenderness, dissolve a chunk of roux in the pan and instant curry goodness ensues. Continue reading

Kung pao chicken

23 Apr

kung pao chicken

I adore kung pao chicken – the hotter and more mouth numbing it is, the better I like it. However, the rest of the family don’t share my tolerance for hot food.

To make kung pao chicken the whole family can enjoy, I use a few dried chillies for base heat when cooking, remove the girls’ portions, then stir through additional fresh chillies for the grown-ups.

Continue reading

Chinese pork and beans

19 Nov

Chinese pork and beans

Chinese pork and beans is an easy working day dinner, coming together in the time it takes to steam the rice.

The flavours are akin to mapo tofu, though the crisp green beans and peanuts make it a crunchier affair. Continue reading

Chicken cacciatore

31 May

chicken cacciatore
Despite transcribing it faithfully from my mother’s spattered recipe card when I was compiling Fern’s Food, chicken cacciatore is one of those 1970s mainstay meals that I’d completely forgotten about.

Braised chicken thighs simmered slowly in a rich, garlicky tomato sauce until falling-off-the-bone tender – no surprise it was a big hit with the family.

Continue reading

Pork bits Hawaiian

13 Mar

pork bits Hawaiian

“Are we having Hawaiian pizza for dinner?” my daughter asked when she got home from school.

She was in the zone – I was making pork bits Hawaiian, a childhood favourite of mine that I hadn’t thought of in years. Continue reading

Onion-tahini sauce

31 Oct

Onion tahini sauce is a legacy of my student days, when I would make this dish most weeks.

And not just because it was dirt cheap. The tahini, cumin and soy sauce come together in an unexpectedly delicious, savoury, satisfying way, delivering a wallop of what I now know to be umami. Continue reading

Lasagne

23 Sep

lasagne

A well-made lasagne is a delightful thing. Unfortunately, the dish that passed for lasagne in my childhood did not fit this description.

According to the index card, mum got the recipe from a neighbour on our block. It calls for an entire tin of tomato paste, Kraft cheese slices, and a large tub of sour cream.

It was years before I ate lasagne again, and was happily surprised to discover how good it can be. Continue reading

Spinach mushroom kitchri

9 Sep

spinach mushroom kitchri

This thick porridge of mung beans and rice might look like something Oliver Twist would have declined, but for me, a warm bowl of khitchri is pure comfort food. Continue reading

Salmon with orange-ginger miso noodles

1 Sep

salmon with orange-miso-ginger noodles

I’ve made this salmon noodle bowl several times this summer. It’s a versatile dish – equally good served hot or cold.

The orange-ginger miso sauce is the star of the show, adding richness and depth to an otherwise simple meal. Continue reading

Moqueca de camarão (Brazilian prawn stew)

14 Jul

moqueca de camarão (Brazilian prawn stew)

Moqueca de camarão is my kind of dish.

Simple, delicious, light, flavourful, every ingredient singing in harmony.

I’m so pleased I’ve discovered it, and expect we’ll be eating it regularly all year round.

Continue reading

Cornish pasties

13 Jul

Cornish pasties

I’ve gone for Cornish pasties to represent England in this year’s World Cup cook-off.

Yes, it’s a shameless crowd-pleaser, but I suspect that England needs all the help it can get – both in the kitchen and on the pitch.

Strictly speaking, if it’s not made in Cornwall, it’s not a Cornish pasty.

But if I’d made these in Penzance instead of London, I think they might pass muster.  Continue reading

Arepas con camarones y hogao

3 Jul

I love it when I discover something new to cook that I know will become a fixture on the family dinner table.

These Colombian arepas are one of those things.

Delicious, crispy, light and filling, we made noises of happiness as we ate them. Continue reading

Königsberger klopse

29 Jun

Between Swedish meatballs, Italian spaghetti and meatballs and Algerian meatballs with chickpeas (not to mention the pork-courgette meatballs I make for banh mi) we’re pretty well covered on the meatball front.

But this year’s World Cup cook-off is an opportunity to represent Germany with these solid, trustworthy königsberger klopse from Fern’s Food.

Continue reading

Sancocho de gallina

28 Jun

Sancocho de gallina is Panama’s national dish, making it an obvious choice for our World Cup 2018 cook-off.

Chicken and root vegetables are simmered to a melting tenderness, resulting in a gently flavoured, nourishing meal.

The problem is, none of us liked it much. Continue reading

Pljeskavica (Serbian hamburgers)

27 Jun

These enormous hamburgers were a no-brainer to represent Serbia in our World Cup 2018 cook-off.

They’re super-easy to make as well – the only tricky bit was flipping them.

I found it helpful to form the patties on squares of grease-proof paper. I placed them meat-side down on the grill before peeling off the paper. Continue reading

Al kabsa

20 Jun

Al Kabsa

Al kabsa is made by patiently cooking meat, vegetables and rice with an array of spices in a slowly simmering stock until it reaches a flavoursome tenderness.

Widely considered to be Saudi Arabia’s national dish, al kabsa is an obvious choice to represent the Saudi team in our 2018 World Cup cook-off.

There are many varieties of al kabsa and I looked at a number of recipes. It can be made with chicken, beef, lamb, goat, camel or seafood. (Chicken seemed the obvious choice there.)

Continue reading

Picadillo de platano verde

17 Jun

Picadillo de platano verde reminds me of the hamburger mince gravy my dad made each week.

A colourful, exotic Latin cousin perhaps, with its chunks of red pepper and golden plantain, spicy with cumin and paprika.

I found it interesting that Worcestershire sauce turned up in most of the picadillo recipes I looked at.

Like great-uncle Arthur’s chin or great-aunt Nellie’s hooded eyelids recurring across the generations. Continue reading

Singapore rice noodles

28 Apr

Singapore noodles

It’s an ambition to cook a dish from every country in the world – a sort of travel by fork.

So I was disappointed to learn that my long-time favourite Singapore noodles won’t earn me my Singapore stamp. Turns out they are a Cantonese creation, and probably originated in Hong Kong.

I certainly ate them regularly when I lived in Vancouver and worked a short walk from Chinatown.  Continue reading

Cauliflower and white bean stew

20 Feb

Cauliflower and white bean stew

Cauliflower and white bean stew is a one of those no-fuss, mid-week meals I’ve been making for years.

There’s something vaguely Mediterranean about it – Spanish or maybe Greek – which can be played up by adding smoked paprika, or a scattering of crumbled feta. But generally I just make it as below.

It took awhile for the girls to warm to it (courgette has always been a hard sell for some reason), but they eat it happily now. Continue reading

Mushroom risotto (risotto ai funghi)

7 Jan

mushroom risotto

Mushroom risotto is excellent, warming winter fare. It’s dead easy to make too, aside from all the stirring…

Continue reading

Red-red stew

8 Oct

red red

Red-red is a traditional Ghanaian bean stew that gets its name (and colour) from the tomatoes and palm oil used to prepare it.

The first red-red recipe I tried called for three types of chilli – fresh Scotch bonnet, chilli flakes, and chilli powder (plus additional minced chilli to garnish).

Despite cutting back significantly on the quantity of chilli (and omitting the chilli powder altogether), it was so blisteringly hot the girls were unable to eat it. Continue reading

Lamb-feta burgers with yogurt sauce

4 Oct

Lamb and feta burger with yogurt sauce

These lamb-feta burgers are my first foray into the world of Armenian cooking.

While I’ve met a few Armenians over the years, and seen an unlikely number of Armenian films, thanks to Armenian-Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, I’m pretty sure I’ve never eaten an Armenian meal.

These lamb-feta burgers were such a hit, we’ll definitely be eating them again.

Continue reading

Spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and olive oil)

26 Sep

Spaghetti alio e olio

For all its simplicity, spaghetti aglio e olio is easy to mess up.

It’s really important not to overcook the garlic – no more than the faintest shade of gold, or it will taste bitter.

It’s also important to measure the salt. Too little, and the dish is insipid – too much and it’s ruined. Continue reading

Mujaddara

16 Aug

Mujaddrah

Mujaddara is filling, tasty and cheap as chips.

It was staple fare in my student years – along with mushroom barley soup (that stuff lasts forever), ratatouille, and the enticingly-named “lentil shit”.

I’d make a big pot of mujaddara one meal, then reheat portions in a frying pan with a splash of water (no microwaves in those days…) Continue reading

Potato and egg curry

8 Aug

Potato egg curry

Potatoes and eggs are a winning combination, whether in potato salad, breakfast burritos, Spanish tortilla, or that British classic, egg & chips.

This potato and egg curry is further proof of concept.

Continue reading

Vietnamese fried chicken (VFC)

10 Jun

Vietnamese fried chicken (VFC)

I  seldom make fried chicken. Not because I don’t like it (I do), and not for health reasons either. It’s the time it takes, the mess it makes (all that spattering oil)… The end result never seemed to justify the hassle.

But that was before I encountered Vietnamese fried chicken (or VFC as we now call it) at a music festival.

Maybe I was influenced by the band that was playing (Noah and the Whale), or the unexpected blessing of sunshine, or the mellow party atmosphere, but that chicken was just about the best thing I’d ever tasted.

The moist and flavourful meat, the growing kick of chilli heat, the coating that was more crackle than crumb. Fried chicken this good was definitely worth the hassle. Continue reading

Kolokithopita (courgette pie)

17 May

Kolokithopita (Greek courgette pie)

I haven’t made kolokithopita in years. This satisfying combination of courgettes, feta cheese and phyllo pastry was a regular summer visitor when I used to grow courgettes – along with pasta alle zucchini and chocolate chip zucchini bread.

Last week my younger daughter announced that she was going vegetarian for a month. I’m very happy to support her with this ambition – we eat plenty of vegetarian meals already, and when I do cook meat it is seldom the main event, so it hasn’t made much difference to what I serve her for dinner. Continue reading

Moros y Cristianos (black beans and white rice)

1 May

Moros y Cristianos is a Cuban dish of black beans (Moors) and white rice (Christians).

In some versions, the rice and beans are cooked together – resulting in visually unappealing (though tasty) gray rice. I prefer to keep the rice and beans separate until the last moment to maintain the contrast of colours.

I reheat leftover rice and beans separately while I cook the onion and peppers, then stir it all together just before serving. Dressed with a splash of vinegar or lime juice, and a dash of hot sauce it makes a very satisfying lunch. Continue reading

Beef goulash

25 Mar

Beef goulash

Beef goulash is one of the first dishes I learned to cook on my own. The original recipe is from Seventeen magazine – that’s how long I have been making this dish…;-)

Continue reading

Root vegetable crumble

7 Mar

Root vegetable crumble

Root vegetable crumble is one of my favourite things to make in the winter. While both girls are affronted by the very concept of a savoury crumble, I love it.

When divided into six ramekins,  portions are definitely on the starter/lunch size. When I make root vegetable crumble for dinner, I serve it with lots of steamed vegetables or a big green salad. I’ve also made it in a shallow casserole dish. Continue reading

Kuku paka

19 Jan

Kuku paka

Kuku paka – Kenyan chicken and potato curry – is both simple and delicious. Mildly spiced and creamy, my girls both love it.

Unlike many curries, the chicken are cooked separately – which keeps the flavours and textures distinct– and folded into the coconut curry sauce just before serving.

(Which is similar to chicken tikka masala, now I think of it.) Continue reading

Chicken tinga tacos

2 Dec

chicken tinga tacos

Chicken tinga tacos – fun to say, fun to eat… And a great leftover to use in packed lunches throughout the week.

Another bonus of making chicken tinga is the delicious stock that results from poaching the chicken. Sometimes I freeze it, but more often it gets added to soups or risotto over the following days.

Continue reading

Sweet potato and black bean tacos

18 Nov

Sweet potato and black bean tacos

Sweet potato and black bean tacos are currently the “go-to” taco around here. Last year was all about fish tacos, but the tilapia I favoured has vanished from the fish counter, for one thing.

Also, we are make a conscious effort to have more meat-free dinners each week, and these are helping with that ambition.

Continue reading

Roasted chicken with clementines and arak

12 Nov

Chicken with clementines, fennel and ouzo

If I had to pick my all-time favourite cookbook, Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem would be a strong contender. Every recipe I have made from it – and I’ve made a good number – has been a winner.

And if I had to pick an all-time favourite recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook, I’d choose his recipe for roasted chicken with clementines and arak.

I’ve made this dish any number of times – with chicken thighs and chicken breasts; with clementines, satsumas, and once with navel oranges; with arak, ouzo or Pernod.

I’ve skipped the marinating stage on occasion, and once accidently roasted the chicken for more than two hours. Nothing I’ve done has made a dent in its deliciousness.

Serve with steamed basmati rice, bulghur wheat or couscous. Continue reading

Turkey white bean chilli

6 Nov

Turkey white bean chilli

This turkey white bean chilli is a lighter, fresher take on the rich, red chilli con carne I grew up eating – though the chipotle paste ensures it still packs a punch.

Continue reading

Kimchi jjigae

26 Oct

Kimchi jjigae

As a lover of all things kimchi, I can think of nothing finer on a cool autumn night than a steaming bowl of kimchi jjigae. Chilli hot, vinegar sour, and packing a hefty garlicky punch, kimchi jjigae is not for the timid of palate  (though the chilli heat can easily be tamed down by using less gochujang, or even omitting the gochugaru).

Kimchi jjigae also has serious sinus-clearing properties, and when a cold threatens, I’d take it over chicken soup any day of the week.

I have yet to convince the girls to join us in a bowl of kimchi jjigae – as we say around here, they are still “learning to like kimchi”…;-) Continue reading

Mung bean coconut curry

19 Oct

Mung bean coconut curry

Poor, unfashionable mung beans… While a number of ingredients have crossed the aisle from “health food” to mainstream (hummus, tofu), or even become trendy (quinoa, chia seeds), mung beans are not among them.

There is still something 1970s, socks-and-sandals, “knit your own yogurt” about mung beans (at least in their un-sprouted form). Or maybe it’s a name thing… if you were brainstorming names to market a new legume, I doubt “mung” would make the long list.

Having been a friend of the mung bean for years, I’d like to introduce them to a wider social circle. This mung bean coconut curry is a good place to start. Quick to make (mung beans don’t need pre-soaking), delicious, healthy and cheap, this curry is a winner.

Continue reading

Beef stroganoff

9 Oct

Beef stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is one of my life-long favourite meals – I can remember choosing it for my special birthday dinner.  I recently unearthed a class cookbook from first grade, and there in all its faded mimeographed glory was “Beef Stroganoff, by Andrea”.

Stroganoff was where my love affair with rosemary began. So I was genuinely stunned that in a survey of numerous beef stroganoff recipes online, not one of them included rosemary.

To my mind, rosemary is an integral part of the dish – it simply wouldn’t be stroganoff without it. (The poppy seeds on the noodles are non-negotiable as well.) Continue reading