Family recipe

Yaki udon

udon noodles

This dish is becoming a firm family favourite. It makes an excellent, quick, midweek dinner and can be easily adapted to please the fussy tastes of children. This was the dish that I always used to order at Wagamamas. I don’t bother now that I can make it so easily at home but the reduced portion sizes at Wagamamas have put me off going there in any case.

In this recipe everything revolves around the sauce and noodles. You can then freestyle the rest adding whatever vegetables are in your bottom drawer of your fridge. The original recipe (from Tim Anderson’s ‘Nanban – Japanese Soul Food’) adds beansprouts and mushrooms but I generally use cabbage and carrots because I always have those in and everyone in our household likes them. Tim also adds bacon and you could add chicken or prawns if you like, but I prefer to keep it vegetarian.

With regards to the noodles, I use ready made quick cook udon noodles which I buy from Tesco. Loyal followers of this blog may remember that I did once attempt to make my own but this was very hard work (you have to knead and walk on the dough multiple times and then hand roll the noodles!). I generally don’t mind putting in the effort if the end result is fabulous but in this case the final noodles were a bit rugged and rather stodgy.

My children don’t like onion and so I only put the crispy onion and spring onion on the adult plates. Likewise with the sesame seeds. Everyone likes the omelette topping though and the children squabble over who gets the biggest portion of this.

Yaki-udon

Serves 4

  • 4 x 200g cooked udon noodles
  • ½ a cabbage cut into very thin strips
  • 4 carrots sliced lengthways as thinly as possible and then cut into fine strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger finely chopped or grated

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • ½ a teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of dashi powder or MSG (optional – obviously don’t use dashi if you’re a vegetarian)

To garnish

  • Thin omelettes cooled and very finely sliced
  • Sesame seeds
  • Crispy fried onions (you can buy these ready made or make your own buy slicing an onion very, very thinly and then frying on a high heat in a lot of oil for 5-10 minutes until brown and crispy. Drain well on kitchen roll before using)
  • The green tops of spring onion

This makes a large amount. You will need a large wok, otherwise cook in two batches.

Heat a little oil in a large wok until hot. Stir fry the carrots for 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and cabbage and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes until wilted.

Mix up the ingredients for the sauce and add to the pan, then stir in the cooked or straight-to-wok udon noodles. Stir fry for another couple of minutes until heated through and then serve.

Garnish with the sesame seeds, egg, spring onion and crisp fried onion (or any combination of these that you like).

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Brisket

brisket

I love beef brisket. Not only is it economical and full of flavour but it’s also very forgiving. You just have to cook it nice and slow for at least 4 hours and it always turns out fine (unlike topside where there’s always a risk that it will be overdone and tough or underdone and the kids won’t eat it).

For years I’ve been cooking brisket in the same old nice (but boring) way.

  • season and sear meat
  • chuck in onion/carrot/garlic/herbs
  • cover with red wine and beef stock
  • cook on low for a whole afternoon

But then along came the lovely John Whaite who changed my outlook on this humble cut of meat. His ‘Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket’ is brisket with pizzazz. The technique is similar to mine, but with the addition of a few new exciting flavours you get a lighter, sunnier kind of dish – one that you serve with flat breads and spicy coleslaw rather than Yorkshire puddings and potatoes. There is obviously a place for both but it’s good to have another option, especially in the hotter spring/summer months when a traditional roast doesn’t really suit.

John Whaite’s Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket (from the Telegraph online)

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5kg unrolled beef brisket (my joint was actually only 850g but I still used the quantities below and it was delicious, my butcher only sells it rolled but I just cut the string and unrolled it)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into 8 pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed
  • The peel from 1 clementine (I used orange peel because that’s all I had)
  • 3 star anise flowers
  • 8 green cardamon pods, bruised
  • 300ml of red wine (I used cheap rioja)
  • 250ml of beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce (I used 1 tablespoon because 1 teaspoon seemed like child’s play)
  • A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Rub salt and pepper on the entire surface of the meat and sear it in a heavy casserole dish with a lid over a medium-high heat for a minute on each side.

Throw in the other ingredients and bring the liquid in the pan to a boil. Cover with a disc of baking paper, touching the surface of the meat and liquid. Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 4-4 ½ hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it covered with the meat inside for a good 30 minutes.

Remove the beef from the pan and shred, removing any big lumps of fat. Then pass the cooking liquor through a sieve before returning to the pan along with the shredded beef. Scatter with freshly chopped coriander before serving.

I served mine in a tortilla wrap (bought I’m afraid) with an Asian flavoured coleslaw (basically red cabbage, onion and carrot with leftover gyoza dipping sauce chucked over the top).