Teriyaki Tofu

As someone who doesn’t particularly care for sandwiches, one of my aims in the kitchen is to construct a repertoire of foods which are just as good cold as they are hot and so can be taken to university for lunch. If I weren’t so fussy, this wouldn’t be an issue as I could just take sandwiches and make do but I am so I can’t. As a result, I ended up developing a selection of Asian style tofu dishes with different versions of my standard ‘teriyaki sauce’ as I have found tofu to be a very nice cold dish.

The reason I put ‘teriyaki’ in inverted commas is that this is not a classic teriyaki sauce, it has been westernised. A traditional version would have sake or mirin (types of rice wine) in it and would not have the sesame. As sake and mirin were very difficult to get hold of in the West when Asian food began to become popular, substitutions had to be made that would satisfy customers without changing the sauce too much. The replacement of mirin with sesame oil was one of these. The oil emulsifies into the sauce very well and doesn’t split during cooking – leading to a thick sauce packed full of flavour – and salt, so you shouldn’t need to season this at all. I sometimes add a little bit of rice vinegar if I have it in the house as it helps cut through the sweetness so you get a far more balanced sauce.

As with most cooking terms, the word ‘teriyaki’ comes from the combination of words describing the process. Teri describes the shine that this sauce gives to food because of the high sugar content and yaki refers to the actual cooking method of grilling or broiling. This origin of the word goes some way to explaining the reason why there is no ‘official’ recipe for teriyaki sauce in Japan. The only requirement is that it is a soy sauce based glaze. I could make an argument that, using this definition, my sauce is technically a teriyaki sauce as the result is a glossy dish but this version is certainly not authentic and is deeply rooted in western cuisine.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and decide that you want to try it out for your own lunches. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Teriyaki Tofu with Coriander

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Cost per portion: around £1.20

60ml Dark Soy Sauce

60ml runny honey

40ml sesame oil

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp hot sauce (I use sriracha)

400g extra firm tofu

1 large carrot

I bunch spring onions

1 cup frozen edamame beans

20ml vegetable oil

If necessary: 2 tbsp cornflour mixed with 4tbsp water

I bunch of fresh coriander

Remove the tofu from its packaging and drain it. Wrap it in a hand towel and place it on a firm, flat surface with a heavy weight on top (a large cookery book is ideal). This will press any excess liquid out, making the tofu firmer and nicer to eat. (This is, of course, optional depending on how firm your tofu is to start with.)

To make the sauce, grate the garlic and whisk it together with the soy sauce, honey, sesame and hot sauce.

Cut the carrot into 2mm thick rounds and then cut these again to make tiny batons.

Slice up the spring onion.

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After the tofu has been pressed for about ten minutes remove it from the towel

Cut the tofu into 1 or 2cm cubes.

Place the tofu and the vegetable oil into a non-stick pan and fry until the tofu begins to develop a hard crust underneath. This will soften later so don’t be afraid to get a little crispyness on the tofu.

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Toss the tofu and continue to fry until most of it has formed a crust.

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Remove the tofu from the pan leaving as much oil as possible in it as this will be used to fry the rest of the dish.

Add the carrots to the pan. Fry for two minutes on high heat and then add 50ml water. BE CAREFUL – this will spit a little. The water will help soften the carrots.

Fry for another three minutes until the water has mostly evaporated and then add the spring onion.

Fry for another minute before adding the frozen edamame beans.

Add another 50ml of water and cook until the water has all gone.

Tip in the tofu and the sauce mix. Simmer for at least five minutes to ensure the garlic in the sauce is fully cooked.

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If the sauce is still very runny, add one tablespoon of the cornflour mix and stir it through. Continue to add more cornflour, cooking between each addition, until the sauce has reached a thick, oozing consistency. As this can be eaten cold, you do not want to add so much cornflour that the sauce sets when it cools.

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Roughly chop the coriander and stir it through the still hot mixture.

Serve with rice either hot or cold! I like to take this to university with me for lunches as it doesn’t need to be hot to be delicious.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of tofu, check out my ginger tofu recipe, it’s another one which is good cold and my lord is it tasty. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet variety, why not treat yourself to a delicious devil’s food cake? It’s rich, chocolatey and devilishly good.

Have a good one and I will be back with a recipe for those of you looking to indulge your sweet tooth.

H

Curry Laksa

If you have been following this blog for some time, you will have picked up on the fact that I love curry. One thing that I have always wanted to do is create my own curry paste but, unfortunately, I have never had the right equipment. Now things have now changed. This recipe doesn’t require any expensive spice grinders that are only going to be used occasionally, it uses a standard food processor, which is a much more worthwhile investment.

Handmade curry paste is very different from the most available ones you can buy. For starters, it is nowhere near as concentrated. This may seem a bit odd but once you make it, you will realise quite how much water is in the paste which is removed before you purchase it. A curry for two people normally has about 60g of curry paste in it. This recipe feeds four but uses over a cup (250ml) of paste. This excess water must be driven off at the start of the cooking process if you want to extract the best flavours from the spices.

The recipe below is specifically for curry laksa. This differs from asam laksa as it lacks tamarind pulp and includes coconut milk. These differences result in a far creamier, much less sour curry that I am a huge fan of. Laksa is a classic example of fusion cuisine done well. It is believed to have been cooked for Chinese merchants by the women they married as they travelled around the Malay Archipelago (Malaysia, Java and Indonesia). The dish combined the local ingredients, specifically coconut and tamarind, with the noodle dishes that the Chinese merchants bought with them on their travels and from these intermarriages was born the Peranakan culture.

A lot of classic laksa recipes contain both dried and brown shrimp in the curry paste and also use prawns instead of chicken. As someone who doesn’t eat seafood this was rather unfortunate for me, but luckily chicken laksa is relatively popular and isn’t too much of a change from the original sentiment behind the dish. The depth of flavour from the spice combination is phenomenal and I hope you get as much pleasure from this dish as I did.

 

 

 

Curry Laksa with Chicken

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 3/4

Cost per serving: around £2

 

 

For the paste:

3-6 red chilis

5 garlic cloves

2 stalks lemon grass

3cm ginger

2 tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp cashew nut butter (2 tbsp nuts or swap for peanut butter)

1 tbsp fish sauce

Juice of one lime

1 tsp oil

 

Other Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil

2 chicken breasts

400ml low fat coconut milk (this has a slightly milder flavour than the full fat variety)

600ml chicken stock

4 portions noodles

Beansprouts or some other thin, crunchy vegetables (julienne carrots or mangetout both work too)

3 tsp chilli paste (optional)

6 tofu puffs or slices of fried tofu (optional)

Corriander and sliced spring onion to garnish

 

 

Place the ingredients for the paste into a food processor and blend until almost smooth. Laksa should have a slightly gritty texture so the paste should still have a few fibres left in it.

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Heat the oil in a pan and add the laksa paste. Fry this until it starts to dry out.

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Add a quarter of the coconut milk and cook again until the paste starts to dry and the milk begins to crack. (For more information about cracking the milk, see my post on Thai curries).

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Pour in the rest of the coconut milk along with the stock. Stir this together and heat until it begins to boil.

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Once the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat until it is simmering and then add the chicken to poach in the soup for around 15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking and if you are using tofu puffs, slice them in half along the diagonal and add them to the soup.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain them and rinse with cold water until the noodles are completely cool to stop them from cooking any more.

Once the chicken is ready, blanch the beansprouts and begin to assemble the dish.

Place a portion of noodles in the centre of each bowl and place a couple of pieces of tofu on top.

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Slice the chicken breasts and divvy them up between the bowls laying the chicken down on one side of the noodles

Place the bean sprouts or other vegetables in the centre of the bowl, on the noodles, to give the dish height.

Ladle the soup around the outside of noodles so as not to disturb the vegetables.

Finally, garnish with a small spoon of chilli paste if you like your laksa spicy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe! The soup is full of flavour and can absolutely be enjoyed without any of the other toppings if you want a light lunch or even just a small starter at the beginning of your meal. The wonderful thing about making your own curry paste is that you can adjust the ingredients to your preferences so the laksa will be perfect every time.

If you like curries, you should definitely check out my recipes for Thai coconut curry and also for my lighter, non-coconut curry too. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a little sweeter, why not try treating yourself to a beautiful ombre cake? You can even turn it into a unicorn!

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a cake idea that you can prepare for Halloween.

H

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut and Purple Sweet Potato Soup

Blue food. The very notion conjures up thoughts of sweets and food colouring – neither of which are particularly appealing. This reaction most likely arises from the fact that there are almost no naturally blue foods so eating something with such an unnatural colour can be a little unsettling. The closest that nature comes to presenting us with blue food are the butterfly pea flower (which isn’t eaten itself, just used for its dye) and purple plants.

Most naturally occurring purple foods contain the indicator anthocyanin. This is what gives red cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, purple sweet potato and even black rice their colour. Anthocyanins are red in acidic solutions and dark purple and blue in more neutral ones. The colourful nature of anthocyanins has lead to their popularity among chefs who like to employ a bit of pageantry in their cooking. With only a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice, food and drink can be made to change colour in front of the consumer’s eyes leading to an exciting meal (which can also cost a lot of money).

The purple sweet potato has a vibrant purple colour which stems from the high concentration of anthocyanins in its flesh. When boiled, the colour darkens, becoming closer to navy blue, as boiling water is slightly more acidic than cold water and the indicator in the sweet potato reacts accordingly. As a result, the majority of recipes using purple sweet potatoes will tell you to bake the potato and then scoop out the cooked flesh, as this way none of the colour is lost. You also don’t lose any of the flavour which is important as there are a lot of subtle undertones which can be easy to miss if all the taste is cooked out of the potato. As they have such a sweet flavour, purple sweet potatoes are commonly used in desserts and not savoury dishes. Cakes, tarts, swiss rolls and even bubble tea have all benefitted from the taste and colour of purple sweet potatoes and, because of this, the sweet potato has become one of the most versatile ingredients you can use.

The recipe below can of course be made with normal orange sweet potato or even with white sweet potatoes if you can get your hands on them. I imagine a small trio of soups, one with each of the different potatoes, would be both visually and gustatorily fantastic – though I’m sure that the contestants on Come Dine With Me would say that it’s still too simple, even with the homemade bread that you spent the day baking. Either way, the soup is delicious and I hope you like it as much as I did.

 

Purple Sweet Potato and Coconut soup

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 7/8

Cost per portion: around 35p

 

2 large purple sweet potatoes

2 medium onions

3 cloves garlic

2 tbsp chopped ginger

1 medium spicy chilli

400ml coconut milk

500-750ml vegetable stock

3 tbsp vegetable oil

 

Chop the potatoes into quarters lengthwise, place onto a baking tray and drizzle with two tablespoons of the oil.

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Bake for half an hour at gas mark 6.

While the potatoes are baking, dice the onion. This doesn’t have to be super fine as the soup will be blended later.

Place the onion into a pan with the remaining oil and saute until it is translucent.

Roughly chop the garlic and chilli and add them to the onions along with the ginger.

Fry until the garlic and ginger become fragrant and then add the coconut milk and 500ml of the vegetable stock.

Once the mix is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the potatoes finish cooking in the oven.

 

Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them rest for a few minutes until you can touch them without burning yourself.

Peel off the skins which should have released during cooking.

Chop the potato into chunks and add it to the soup – if it is not quite soft yet, let it simmer in the soup for five minutes or so.

Using a stick blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.

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Slowly add the remaining stock until the soup reaches the desired consistency. I like it to be thick enough to coat a spoon – similar to the thickness of double cream.

 

This soup is really filling and really tasty so it will go a long way. It’s also super vibrant and, if you make it with purple sweet potatoes its colour is phenomenal. Extra portions shouldn’t be an issue as the soup freezes well so you can just grab a portion and whack it in the microwave for a quick meal.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe, if you are a fan of soups, you should definitely check out my curried sweet potato soup or my butternut squash soup. If you are looking for something a little bit sweeter, why not treat yourself and make a honey cake?

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an amazing unicorn cake.

H

Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Crumble

One of the best things about cooking is how easily most mistakes can be rectified. A good sauce can cover up a multitude of sins and, in many cases, is the reason a dish tastes so good. They provide a way to add flavour to food without having to do too much extra cooking; they can save a piece of meat that has been a little overcooked by reintroducing moisture; and of course they can make or break the balance of a dish.

This recipe is based on one of the five “mother” sauces of French cooking – the béchamel. White sauces like this are cooked by making a roux from flour and butter and then adding milk to thin it down to the desired consistency. Personally, I like the cheat’s version where you whisk the flour into the milk so it is no longer clumpy, add the butter and then heat the sauce until it thickens. The cheat’s method is incredibly useful for a basic béchamel with no added frills as it avoids any problems of the roux burning. A true béchamel presents an extra chance for flavour – you can infuse the milk with herbs, spices and other tastes before you add it, giving another dimension to the dish.

The béchamel sauce did not actually originate in France. It was bought over in the early 1500s from Tuscany, Italy. Known as the Salsa Colla (or “glue sauce”) because of its gummy consistency, the sauce was altered from its base components of flour, butter and milk by adding stock and cream. This action not only added a lot of flavour, but changed the sauce from a béchamel to a velouté – one of the other five base sauces. The three other sauces that I haven’t mentioned yet are the espagnole – a brown roux based sauce with dark veal stock instead of milk, the hollandaise – made by emulsifying butter and egg yolks with a little vinegar and the sauce tomate – a basic tomato sauce. The velouté is like a cross between the béchamel and the espagnole, a light roux is made and then stock is added to thin it down. The sauce is then thickened again using cream and egg yolks to give a velvety mouth feel.

In the recipe below, I use a Mornay sauce – a term I only learnt when researching for this post. This sauce is almost identical to the béchamel except it includes grated cheese, traditionally gruyère, which is melted into the base white sauce. The Mornay is used in most recipes for macaroni and cheese – although in my recipe, I am pretty sure that there is more cheese than anything else – and in the same vein, I am using it here inside the crumble to add moisture and flavour instead of pouring it over the top of the finished product.

This recipe is a great dinner to prep ahead of time and also keeps well in the fridge which is ideal as leftovers mean less cooking the next day! You can tailor the vegetables in the base to your favourites or even just change them every now and then to keep the food interesting. I love this and I hope you do too.

 

 

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Crumble

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 45-60 minutes

Serves: 6

Cost per portion: around 75p

 

 

 

200g butternut squash – cut into small cubes (around one or two centimetres)

200g sweet potato – cut into small cubes (a lot of supermarkets sell prebagged mixes of butternut squash and sweet potato; if you prefer, you can just use one of these instead of cutting your own veg. It saves a lot of time)

1 medium onion

50g butter

25g flour

100-150g grated cheddar cheese

250ml milk

Salt and pepper

 

For the crumble

100g flour

100g butter

35g porridge oats

60g grated fresh parmesan

3 grinds of pepper

 

Melt 25g of butter in a pan.

Finely dice the onion and fry it in the butter for a few minutes until it turns translucent.

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Add the sweet potato and butternut squash and pan roast for around ten minutes. Stir it every few minutes to ensure the vegetables are evenly heated and the ones at the base don’t burn.

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Pour the vegetables into an oven proof dish.

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Put the milk and flour in a pan (you can use the one which the veg was cooked in to avoid extra washing up).

Use a whisk to mix them together to avoid any lumps of flour.

Add the remaining 25g of butter to the sauce mix and gently heat whilst whisking continuously.

After a few minutes, the sauce will begin to thicken as the flour cooks.

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Once the sauce has thickened up and is beginning to bubble, remove it from the heat and stir through the grated cheese, pepper and a little salt (to taste). You want to let the latent heat of the sauce melt the cheese as melting it over the stove will cause the cheese to go stringy.

When you can no longer see anymore cheese in the pan, pour the sauce over the vegetables and stir them together in the oven dish.

 

For the crumble, rub the butter into the flour.

Stir through the rest of the ingredients and then pour the crumble over the vegetable mix.

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Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Bake the crumble for 45 minutes or up to an hour for an extra crispy crumble. If the crumble starts to turn too dark, cover the top with foil and continue to cook.

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This crumble is stunningly good and can be prepared ahead of time. Just pop it in the oven an hour before you wish to eat and relax!

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If you liked this, you should definitely check out my recipe for macaroni and cheese or if you are looking for something a bit more on the sweet side, why not treat yourself to a delicious honey cake?

Have a good one and I will be back next week for a delicious bread recipe.

H

 

 

Ginger Tofu

Herbs and spices enhance a dish in a way that nothing else can. Spices add layers of flavour whilst herbs provide a freshness that lifts a dish to another level. The difference between a herb and a spice is the region of a plant where they are found. Herbs are the leaves of a plant (like basil or mint) whereas spices can be the root (ginger), the seeds (caraway) or the bark (cinnamon). Some species of plant can provide both herbs and spices like coriander from which we use both the leaves and the seeds. The powdered coriander you buy is made by grinding the seeds.

While herbs and spices are found mostly in savoury foods, there are several which are used in sweet dishes too. People are often afraid to use herbs in desserts which is understandable, herbs have relatively strong flavours and you wouldn’t normally put leaves in a pudding but sometimes it just works. Basil pairs beautifully with white chocolate, peaches, strawberries and mango; mint pairs with dark chocolate; sage and thyme work wonderfully with citrus flavours; saffron gives an incredible yellow colour to a dish and of course, sweet tea flavoured dishes – especially matcha green tea with white chocolate – are very in at the moment. Spices, on the other hand, are used all the time in sweet treats without anyone batting an eyelid: chilli chocolate, gingerbread, cinnamon rolls and pfeffernüsse immediately come to mind. Of course we cannot leave out one of the most common spices used today, in fact this item is so common that it is never really considered a spice, cocoa. Chocolate comes from the seeds of a plant making it a spice!

One of my favourite spices is ginger. It has grown on me a lot over the past few years and now I love it. It’s such a versatile flavouring, you can use it dried or fresh in dishes to give them a spicy kick without making them too hot or just use a little to pack a dish full of flavour. The ginger that we know and love is the root of the plant Zingiber Officinale. It is related to galangal (which it can be substituted for in recipes) as well as turmeric – a spice which provides a vibrant yellow colour at a more affordable price than saffron – and cardamom although we only eat the seeds of the cardamom flower. The zingy nature of ginger makes it a delicious flavour to pair with garlic and chilli. Many of my dinners at university were flavoured with some combination of these three, the proportions adjusted depending on how I was feeling at the time.

The recipe below has ginger as a dominant flavour and when mixed with the soy, honey and sesame oil, creates a sauce which is incredibly more-ish. This dish is amazing both hot and cold so can be whipped up for dinner and then the leftovers can be taken to work and eaten for lunch the next day.

Quick disclaimer: Whilst people get very worked up about reheated rice or eating it cold, they never seem to worry about it when eating sushi and other such dishes. Of course there is a chance that reheated rice can give you food poisoning, there is a chance that any type of food could give it to you. The main issue with rice is a bacterium which lives on the surface of dried rice and isn’t killed by cooking – in fact, it’s the cooling cooked rice that it feeds best on so the moment the rice is cold, place it into the fridge and you should be alright for a few days. I wouldn’t advise keeping rice for more than two days but if you do, make sure you reheat the rice fully until it is steaming. I have never had a problem with rice but it never hurts to be careful.

Enjoy the recipe. This sauce can be used for chicken and beef too if you aren’t a fan of tofu, just substitute them in when cooking and make sure to cook all the meat through properly.

Ginger Tofu

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 3

Cost per serving: around £1.50

40g peeled ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp honey

400g firm/extra firm tofu (not silken)

2 ½ tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water

1-1.5 cups rice

1 onion

1 carrot

80g edamame/soya beans

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp Sushi vinegar mixed with 1 tsp sugar and ¼ tsp salt (optional)

1tbsp chilli oil (optional)

Place the rice into a saucepan and rinse a few times by half filling the saucepan with water, swilling the rice around until the water turns cloudy and then draining it.

For one cup of rice, add one and a half cups of water to the pan (scale this up for more rice) and bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer the rice, covered for about 15-20 minutes.

(If using a rice cooker, rinse the rice and put it into the cooker with the instructed amount of water and turn the rice cooker into cook mode – if it finishes early, it will keep the rice warm.)

Drain the tofu and place it between two boards. Press down on the top board and drain off any excess liquid that comes out of the tofu.

Cut the tofu into small cubes, I tend to do one horizontal cut through the block and then several along each edge giving me around 40 small pieces.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. It is important to use a non-stick pan as tofu can be a real pain to cook in stainless-steel.

Add the tofu to the oil and leave to fry – I like to add salt and pepper to the tofu while it is frying to season it.

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While the tofu is cooking, grate the garlic and the ginger into a small bowl.

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Stir the honey, soy sauce and one tablespoon of the sesame oil into the ginger and garlic mix.

Once the tofu turns golden on the base and starts to go crispy, turn it over and cook the other side. It will take about five minutes per side to start going crispy.

While the second side is cooking, finely slice the onion into half moons. Thinly slice the carrots into two inch long thin strips. A julienne peeler is ideal for this.

Once the top and bottom of the tofu are crispy, add the sauce mix along with one quarter of a cup (60ml) of water. Be careful as it will spit when you add it to the pan.

Allow the mix to bubble for a minute to cook the garlic and ginger before pouring in the cornflour slurry and stirring to coat the tofu.

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Pour the tofu into a dish and use a spatula to scrape out as much of the sauce as possible.

Add the remaining vegetable and sesame oil to the frying pan and heat.

Tip in the onion, carrot and edamame beans and fry until the beans are cooked. This will ensure that the onion and carrot still have a little crunch.

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I like to add a tablespoon of chilli oil at this point to give the vegetables a little kick.

When the rice is cooked, drain off any water that may be left, place a lid onto the saucepan and allow to steam for a minute to make sure the rice is dry.

Stir together the sushi vinegar, salt and sugar. It may be necessary to heat this in the microwave for ten seconds or so to help everything dissolve.

Pour the seasoning over the rice and gently stir it through.

This can be eaten hot or allowed to cool and then taken for lunches at work or on the go. The seasoned rice will keep in the fridge for a few days (long enough to eat it all safely) and the tofu and veg will also keep in airtight containers. Cold tofu tends to have a slightly firmer texture than warm tofu; personally I prefer the former.

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All packed up in a lunch box and ready to go.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you like tofu, check out my delicious tofu curry – the tricks in it can be applied to any curry to make them vegetarian/vegan or if you would like something a little bit sweeter, check out how to make some delicious, crumbly shortbread.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an annual favourite – the honey cake.

H

Onion Soup

I have found that whatever I am making for dinner, my recipes tend to start out the same way: dice/slice/cube the onion and lightly sauté it in a pan. Onions are a great way to bulk out a dish and add a wonderful flavour but they are rarely showcased as the main ingredient. This is a massive shame as onions are delicious and deserve to be shown the respect they are due.

The origin of the onion is not well known as the original wild onion variety is now extinct – and has been for some time. The cultivated version that we know today has been around for over five millennia and has been cultivated by different cultures around the world over this time period.

One of the most famous traits of the onion is that cutting onions makes you cry. This is an evolutionary defence mechanism in which damage to the flesh of an onion starts a chain reaction in which enzymes within it cause the production of syn-Propanethial-S-oxide – or as normal people call it, “the stuff that makes you cry”. This gas irritates our eyes when we cut onions but more importantly for the plant, if it gets attached by pests whilst growing, the gas makes it painful to eat the onion so the pests will move onto a different plant. The gas is sulphur based and the majority of the sulphur in an onion is located near the root end. This is why people advise not cutting off the bottom end of an onion until you have cut up the rest of it as this will reduce the irritation on your eyes. Another interesting thing about this onion based tear gas is that if you cut up enough onions, your eyes will get used to it and you will stop crying – you can actually become immune!

Onions make a great star ingredient for many vegetarian dishes. French onion soup – for which the recipe is given below – is a fantastic example of this. It’s warm, filling, packed full of flavour and completely vegetarian (even vegan if you replace the butter with olive oil). Onion tarts are another popular dish. I am very partial to a tart we make at home which has red onions and balsamic vinegar with a little cheese and a scone like base. Goats cheese and red onion are another classic pairing. Of course we cannot forget one of the most popular forms of the onion – the pickled onion. Soaked in a spiced vinegar, these are often served as a side dish, are popular in sandwiches and together with cheese, bread and sometimes ham, make the Ploughman’s lunch.

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The photo isn’t the best as it’s from about seven years ago but the taste of this onion tart is simply stunning.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and that it opens the onion up to far more possibilities in your kitchen.

 

 

 

Onion Soup

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 90 minutes

Serves 4

Cost per serving: around 60p

 

 

3 medium onions

3 cloves garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

25g butter

3 tsp sugar

1/4 cup (60ml) cooking sherry

750ml vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

Thinly slice the onions and add them to a pan with the oil and the butter.

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Lightly sauté until the onions are translucent.

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Finely crush the garlic and mix it in along with the sugar.

Allow to caramelise for at least three quarters of an hour stirring every fifteen minutes.

Add the sherry and simmer for another fifteen minutes.

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Stir in the stock and cook for another half hour to allow the flavours to meld.

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Serve with croutons or crusty bread for dipping.

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This soup keeps well in the fridge – but never seems to last longer than 48 hours in my house anyway.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a big fan of soups, check out how to make my butternut squash, curried parsnip or tomato and red pepper soups or if you prefer sweet dishes to savoury ones, why not try to master the art of macarons?

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a classic British biscuit.

H

 

Meatballs

I felt that it would be quite poetic to start the second year of this blog’s life with a similar recipe to the start of the first year. The similarity between the ingredients in a bolognaise sauce and meatballs in tomato sauce is remarkable with the main difference in the recipes I use being the addition of carrots to my bolognaise sauce.

There are recipes for meatballs dating back to around 200BC and, realistically, the modern-day recipes haven’t changed tht much since then. There are lots of different variations with different meats, seasonings and bulking agents such as breadcrumbs, but the basic premise is the same. Meat is mixed with flavourings and then compressed into a small ball and cooked.

As you can imagine, there are many ways of cooking meatballs, the most common being frying and baking. Frying the meatballs allows the Maillard reaction to occur all over the surface of the meatball. This is the reaction which causes caramelisation to happen giving a little crunch to the outside of the meatball and helping develop the flavours. The Maillard reaction takes place when amino acids and sugar react on the surface of food between 140 and 165°C. It’s different to standard caramelisation because it does not just depend on the sugars in the food caramelising by themselves and it is also completely non-enzymatic.

Baking in the oven also allows the Maillard reaction to take place but this mostly occurs along the contact point between the meatballs and the baking tin (turning half way though increases the area over which this reaction occurs improving the overall flavour).The hot air in the oven also hardens the outside of the meatballs and it dries them out helping them hold together better when mixed into the tomato sauce.

Another method of cooking meatballs is steaming, however unlike frying and baking this gives a very different result as the steam doesn’t cause the meatballs to brown at all. Steaming also allows the fat in the meat to drip off during cooking which I have found removes a little of the flavour. Braising is the final relatively common method of cooking. It is a combination technique which starts by frying the outside of the meatballs to get a crispy, caramelised exterior. Once the outside is cooked, a sauce is poured over the top of the meatballs, they are covered and then left to cook in the sauce. This technique allows the flavours to meld between the meat and the sauce far better than placing the fully cooked meatballs into the sauce when you serve them.

I prefer to eat meatballs with pasta rather than in sandwiches or by themselves. Meatball pasta bake is a particular favourite of mine with a good crispy layer of cheese on the top (it’s the Malliard reaction rearing its beautiful head again) but sometimes I’m just not patient enough to wait for a pasta bake so spaghetti and meatballs it is!

 

 

Meatballs

Makes around 50 meatballs ~ 8 portions

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Cost per portion: around 60p

 

500g beef mince

1 medium onion

1 egg

¼ cup flour

¼ cup breadcrumbs (optional)

4 large cloves of garlic

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Place the onion, garlic and parsley into a food processor and pulse until they are chopped very finely – drain off any excess liquid produced. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop the onion and garlic as finely as you can.

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Break up the mince with your hands, add the onion, egg and oil and gently stir to combine.

Sprinkle over the flour, salt and pepper along with the breadcrumbs (if you are using them) and gently stir in. The aim is to not turn the meatball mix into a pulp though if it does become mushy, it will still work.

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The mix can now be placed into the fridge for up to 24 hours.

 

When you want to cook the meatballs, turn the oven to 200°C (gas mark 6).

While the oven is heating, line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Use a tablespoon to measure out the mix and with damp hands, compress each tablespoon into a ball and roll it to make it smooth.

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Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes turning them after the first 20.

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Halfway through, you can see that the meatballs have started to harden on top.

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The meatballs can now be frozen, served in a sandwich, on pasta, pizza or even just eaten as is!

 

Basic Tomato Sauce

Serves: 3

Cost per portion: about 50p

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 -60 minutes

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion – finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

¼ cup tomato paste

½ cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

½ tbsp chopped parsley/basil – optional

 

Place the oil and onion into a heavy based pan and fry the onion until it is translucent.

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Add the garlic and fry for another two minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste and water and bring to the boil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Let simmer for at least fifteen minutes. If you can, place a lid on the pan and let it simmer for an hour. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Alternatively, you can place the fried onion into an ovenproof dish along with the other ingredients. This can then be covered and cooked alongside the meatballs in the oven.

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If you prefer your sauce smooth, use a stick blender to puree the lumps. I like to puree it a little but not too much so the sauce still has a little bit of texture.

Stir in the chopped herbs and simmer for another five minutes before serving.

This sauce freezes magnificently and can be used on both pasta and pizza.

 

Serve the meatballs and sauce with pasta for a delicious, filling dinner.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you liked this, you should definitely check out my bolognaise recipe or if you are looking for something a little bit sweeter, why not make yourself an amazing chocolate and hazelnut tart?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a classic piece of patisserie – the macaron.

H