quick 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).

Orzo with purple sprouting broccoli, lemon and ricotta

orzo

It’s a busy time of year down at the allotment and this week we’ve been planting potatoes, broad beans, french beans and onions. Our reward for all this hard work was some super fresh purple sprouting broccoli which had appeared, as if by magic (we didn’t plant it), right in the middle of our cabbage patch. It had survived huge dumps of snow, a collapsed cabbage cage and very hungry pigeons.

Purple sprouting broccoli always brings to mind this recipe (based on one from Waitrose Kitchen magazine). It has a subtle, fresh and healthy taste. It is also really quick to cook. We ate it outdoors for the first time this year and felt very summery and full of hope.

PS. Orzo is my new favourite thing. It’s basically pasta shaped like rice and you can buy it in most supermarkets, although it is a bit more expensive than regular pasta. My children love it, especially mixed with cheese, butter and frozen peas to make a risotto like dish (without all the stirring).

Orzo with purple sprouting broccoli, lemon and ricotta

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 400g of orzo
  • 230g of purple sprouting broccoli or thereabouts (this is the prepared uncooked weight)
  • The zest of one lemon
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 100-200g of ricotta cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a wok or frying pan, heat until smoking then remove from the heat and add the garlic and chilli (if using). Give it a quick stir and set aside.

Cook the orzo according to the packet instructions (or until just cooked through which is often longer than the packet says in my experience). Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli by separating the florets and leaves from the stalks and slicing finely any thick stalks. One minute before the orzo is cooked (you’ll just have to use your best guess here) add the broccoli to the boiling water. Then drain both.

Return the wok/frying pan to a medium heat and add the drained orzo and broccoli to the flavoured oil. Give everything a good stir, then add the lemon zest and juice and season well with salt and pepper.

To serve, crumble over the ricotta cheese and drizzle over a little more olive oil.

Note: If you’re an avid carnivore who needs meat with every meal, then sprinkle some crispy fried bacon over the top.

This dish would also make a good accompaniment for a piece of grilled chicken or fish, or as a cold dish as part of a bigger buffet.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic 2

It’s half term and we’ve been in Scarborough eating lots of gluttonous seaside food. Amazing fish & chips at the Magpie Cafe and giant ice cream sundaes at the Harbour Bar, but also things I’m a bit ashamed of, like ready-made pizzas from Sainsburys Local and my first McDonald’s hamburger in about five years (which, after a fair amount of rose wine, I declared was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten!!!).

So for most of the week I’ve entered the kitchen only to turn on the oven and remove packaging. And on our return yesterday I was still in holiday  ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’ mode but we had to have something for dinner so I made this super quick pasta dish.

I tried the recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to become a staple in our house. It’s easy to make but a bit different to your usual pasta and sauce.

The original recipe (by Olia Hercules for the Guardian) is made with spaetzle (tiny egg dumplings that you make by pushing batter through a colander) but these are a faff to make and I’m not a huge fan of the texture so I make it with linguine instead.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

For two

  • 200-300g of linguine (depending on appetite)
  • 70g of hazelnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a little sea salt
  • 50g of parmesan cheese, grated
  • Two good handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Some sea salt

First toast the hazelnuts in an oven heated to 180oC for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Roughly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar or chop finely with a knife. I buy my hazelnuts unblanched from Lidl (where they’re cheapest) and find that once roasted the skins come off really easily.

Put the nuts, garlic, parsley, oil and parmesan in a large bowl and mix.

Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss into the bowl with the other ingredients and stir until well coated. Serve immediately with a little extra olive oil drizzled over the top and a good sprinkling of  sea salt (although these are optional and can be left out if you’re watching your fat/salt content).

Serve with a green salad on the side if you’re worried about the absence of greens, and a large glass of crisp, white wine if you like.

Cheat’s chilli and a New Year’s resolution

cheats chilli

Flicking through my past few posts I see a bias towards quick and simple dishes. It seems I’ve entered into a rut whereby I lazily wheel out easy recipes I know almost by heart and shy away from anything too challenging.

So one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more adventurous in the kitchen, to try at least one brand new recipe a week and to not always go for the easiest sounding option. My other resolutions are pretty standard – drink less wine, eat more greens, pay my family more attention, clean the house, turn off the computer, do more yoga…blah, blah, blah.

But before I launch into this new realm of extra special effort in the kitchen, I want to quickly tell you about another cheat’s dish (my excuse being that I drafted this post in 2014).

Spaghetti bolognese is one of Britain’s most popular dishes and most people I know can cook it (even those who claim to be hopeless in the kitchen). I’m not going to insult you with a recipe here because you know the thing – garlic, onion, minced beef, a tin of tomatoes, beef stock perhaps a good slug of red wine and some fresh oregano. What I would like to share with you is my trick for turning leftover bolognese into  a chilli-con-carne for day 2 or 3.

All you have to do is add a few bits from your store cupboard and as if by magic you have an entirely new dish.

Cheat’s chilli-con-carne

Serves 4

  • About 700g of leftover bolognese (give or take 100g or so)
  • 1 tin of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 x 10g square of dark chocolate
  • ½ a teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ a teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ a teaspoon of sugar
  • Chilli, either dried chilli flakes or chopped fresh chilli, amount will be according to how hot you like it with 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes resulting in a fairly mild chilli that my children and husband will eat (with yogurt).

Put all the ingredients above into a saucepan, heat slowly and let the mixture bubble away over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Serve with rice.

PS. This only works if you’ve made a pretty standard bolognese. If yours is laced with pancetta, chicken livers or similar fancy ingredients I wouldn’t suggest trying this (but then if you’re making that extra special effort you probably wouldn’t appreciate the cheat’s tip anyway).

PPS. I’m off to yoga now.

cheat's chilli

Alchemy

Super quick prawn curry

prawn curry 2
When we go for a curry my favourite dish is prawn puri and (being very stuck in my ways) this is what I always order. As a special treat my husband recreated the dish for me at home, cobbling together several recipes he found on the internet. He did such a great job that I kept the recipes and whilst I don’t bother with the puris (deep frying them is a bit of a faff) I love the prawn curry filling so much that I’m happy to have it with just rice.

This is super quick and ideal for a mid-week dinner when you don’t have much time. You can make it in less than 15 minutes – which is the time it takes to cook the rice. If you keep a bag of frozen prawns in the freezer then it makes a great standby.

Prawn curry

Serves 2

  • About 15 large prawns (cooked or raw), if you’re using frozen prawns then defrost them first
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ghee, or oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes, depending on how hot you like it, or you can use fresh chillies
  • ½ tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of malt vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of single cream
  • A tablespoon of chopped coriander (or thereabouts)

First dust the prawns in turmeric and set aside.

Fry the onions in ghee or oil over a medium heat until softened and golden brown (about 3-4 minutes).

Add the crushed garlic, ginger, garam masala, ground coriander, cumin and chilli and fry for one minute.

Then add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly (if it thickens too much then you just need to add a little water). Add a good pinch of salt at this stage.

Stir in the prawns, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the prawns are cooked through. This will only be a couple of minutes if you are using cooked prawns and a little longer 3-4 minutes if you’re using raw ones.

Finally, add the malt vinegar and cream and stir.

Serve with rice and garnished with fresh coriander.

NOTE: If you need a recipe for cooking rice see my previous post ‘Nice Rice’ and follow the instructions for cooking rice to accompany Indian food.