soy sauce

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).

Yakitori (and other barbecued delights)

yakitori2

As regular followers of this blog will know, we are a family obsessed with all things Japanese. So when we light up a BBQ you won’t find boring old beef burgers and sausages. It’s yakitori for us.

My five year old son mentioned eating yakitori in his school diary and had to explain exactly what it was to the class. His teachers must think we’re a right bunch of pretentious ponces.

However, although yakitori sounds fancy and exotic, it’s really just little bits of chicken on a skewer (a kebab basically) brushed with a special sauce. The recipe comes from this book.

Harumi

Yakitori sauce

  • 100ml of mirin
  • 3 tablespoons of sake
  • 100ml of soy sauce (preferably Japanese)
  • 50g of caster sugar

Mix all the ingredients above together in a pan and then simmer over a medium heat until the mixture thickens (don’t let it thicken too much however or you’ll have soy sauce flavoured caramel). Set aside until you are ready to use.

Thread small cubes of chicken onto skewers. Season with salt and pepper then barbecue until cooked through.

Once cooked and still hot, brush liberally with the yakitori sauce and serve straight away.

NOTES:

Store any leftover sauce in a clean jar in the fridge. It keeps very well.

You don’t have to use chicken. You can use the sauce on other meats such as beef and pork. Or try with fish or vegetables.


Another recipe I’ve tried recently is this from James Martin. He uses beef foreribs which he cooks in the oven, however I’ve adapted it to use brisket (cheaper and easier to get hold of) and then cook it on the barbecue.

Barbecued brisket with a sticky bourbon glaze

I don’t have a photograph of this dish – sorry. It’s tasty but not very photogenic, if you want to imagine what it looks like then just think of black squares. There’s not even a picture in the ‘Saturday Kitchen at Home’ book it comes from.

For the brisket

  • a large piece of rolled brisket (approx 1.5kg)
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped

For the glaze

  • 175g tomato ketchup
  • 150g chilli ketchup
  • 110ml dark soy sauce
  • 175g honey
  • 4 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of bourbon

First place the brisket in a large saucepan with the peppercorns, bay, parsley, onion and carrot. Fill the pan with water to just cover the brisket. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours with a lid partly on. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface.

When cooked and tender leave the brisket to cool in the stock. Drain, unroll, cut off most of the fat and cut into large wedges. You can save the stock for soup or risotto.

Place all the ingredients for the glaze in a pan and bring to a simmer. Take the chunks of brisket and dip in the sauce to coat.

Barbecue the pieces of brisket until warmed through basting with more sauce halfway through.

NOTE:

Just like the yakitori sauce, you can store any leftover sauce in the fridge in a clean jar.

Jamesmartin

Poor old James Martin. I like his recipes but he’s totally demeaned himself with those deeply embarrassing ASDA adverts.

Chinese chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves

chinese chicken in lettuce leaves

I asked my husband to write an introduction to this recipe. Surprisingly he obliged. He also took the photo.

“If Zoe hasn’t attended a meal out, which is rare, the first thing she has to know is what was eaten and how good it was.  Even if it was a mediocre Chinese.  Which this was.  But the one highlight was a dish of minced chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves.  She was straight on the case to replicate and, of course, improve”.

This is also to appease all those people on healthy eating regimes. It ticks so many diet boxes. No carbs – tick, low in fat – tick, high in protein – tick, two of your five a day – tick. It’s also pretty tasty.

Chinese chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves

Serves 2 as a main course, 4-6 as a starter

  • About 550g of minced chicken
  • 1 large carrot chopped into small cubes, or, if you want to be more authentic, a handful of water chestnuts chopped into small cubes
  • A handful of chives or the green tops of spring onions

Sauce

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated or crushed
  • Chilli to taste (I use one dried red chilli finely chopped, with the seeds, for a medium hot heat)
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

To serve

  • 1 iceberg lettuce, separated into leaves

If, like me, you struggle to find minced chicken in your supermarket/butcher’s, then you will need to mince your own. For roughly 550g of meat use the legs, thighs and mini fillets from the breast cut from a largish chicken. You will need to trim off the skin and as much fat and sinew as possible before mincing in a mini food processor, or you can chop with a knife.

Heat a tiny bit of oil in a frying pan (I use groundnut) and brown the chicken over a medium heat until cooked through (about 5 minutes). Break up the mince with a spoon as you cook.

Add the carrot/water chestnuts and fry for a minute.

Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and add these to the pan. Heat for about a minute.

Remove from the heat and stir through the chives or spring onion tops.

Serve immediately. Put spoonfuls of the chicken mixture into each lettuce leaf and wrap around.

NOTE: You could also substitute the chicken mince for pork or turkey mince.

Teriyaki

teriyaki

I’ve completely failed in my new year’s resolution to be a more exciting cook. Slowly I’ve crept back into lazy habits and three months on I’m cooking mainly tried and tested old staples that are already on this blog.

I’ve not yet told you about this one though. It’s a really easy way to transform any piece of meat or fish into something more exciting. You can buy teriyaki sauce ready made in a bottle but it’s much nicer (and cheaper) to make your own.

This is in memory of our epic holiday in Japan which was exactly a year ago. We just have to wait 9 more years before we get to go again.

Teriyaki sauce

Makes about 6 tablespoons

  • 120ml of mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 60ml of Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 4 minutes until syrupy.

Any unused sauce can be kept in a clean jar in the fridge.

Using the sauce

Lightly season two chicken breasts with salt and pepper and fry on a medium heat with a little oil until just cooked through (I cook mine for 5 minutes each side).

Spoon over 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce and continue to cook for about a minute spooning over the sauce all the time to glaze the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pan and slice thinly.

Serve over rice and drizzle over any remaining sauce from the pan.

This is also nice served over a simple green salad.

NOTES

For Japanese style rice cook according to the guidance in my post Sushi rolls but omit the vinegar, sugar and salt and serve while it’s still warm.

This technique can also be used for steak, pork or fish.

Japan

A year ago in sunny Japan some geisha asked to have their photo taken with Elizabeth and Eddie. Today we’re in Nottingham and it’s raining.

Stir fried chicken with cashew nuts

chicken with cashew nuts

I had a plan to try and feed my family on my butcher’s £20 meat for a week pack (which is really only designed for two people) and post the recipes on this blog. That was my middle class idea of tightening my belt and jumping on the economical cooking bandwagon.

But I was bought down to earth when I read about Jack Monroe’s attempt to live on £1 a day for the ‘Live Below the Line 2014’ challenge*. Now I like to think that I can produce tasty dishes even with cheap ingredients, but reading Jack’s shopping list and diary of meals it made me realise how much I rely on my store cupboard of spices, oils and sauces to make inexpensive ingredients taste good.

Jack Monroe was only able to afford lemon curd, stock cubes, chicken paste and tomato puree to liven up her meager dishes and some of the combinations she came up with in desperation sound truly disgusting. Like soup made with vegetable stock, chicken paste, rice, egg and lemon curd. I thought about the things I would use without thinking…oil, salt, pepper…but these would eat massively into a £1 a day budget.

I think if I had to live off such a tiny amount I’d lose heart with trying to concoct anything tasty (or healthy) and just eat plain rice and smart price baked beans.

Now I’m not like Nigella with her walk in store cupboard of Za’atar, lavender herb mix and pumpkin puree. And I do try to keep the cost of my store cupboard down. For example, I’ve just been on my biennial trip to the oriental hypermarket where you can buy huge bottles of store cupboard essentials like soy sauce and fish sauce for the same price as a tiny bottle in Tesco.

In light of the Jack Monroe piece I’m not sure this is in the best possible taste, but here’s a quick stir fry dish that celebrates my newly replenished store cupboard and makes me feel truly grateful that I don’t have to cook on a budget of just £1 a day.

PS. To appease my guilt I’m going to start contributing to a food bank every time I do a Tesco shop. This is my written pledge.

*For the full article see http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/may/01/jack-monroe-one-pound-a-day-below-the-line

Chicken with cashew nuts

This is based on a recipe in my little Chiang Mai Cookery School book but it’s actually Chinese in origin.

  • 2 chicken breasts (approximately 350g), trimmed of any fat or sinew and sliced thinly
  • 100g cashew nuts
  • 200ml of groundnut or other flavourless oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • A pinch of chilli flakes or 1 fresh red chilli
  • 125ml of chicken stock or water
  • 4 spring onions or welsh onions (which I have growing wild in my herb bed)

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of palm or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of whisky (Don’t leave this out, it’s only a teaspoon but it really enhances the dish. You don’t need a fine single malt just whatever you have to hand or can buy cheaply from the supermarket)

First of all shallow fry the cashew nuts by placing in a frying pan with 200ml of groundnut oil heated to a medium heat. Put the cashew nuts in the pan and stir until they turn a golden brown (this should only take a minute). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with some kitchen roll to absorb any excess oil. Set aside.*

Put two tablespoons of the oil you used to fry the cashews into a wok and place over a high heat. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds then add the chicken and sliced onions. Stir fry for about 3 minutes stirring regularly until the chicken and onions start to brown and the chicken is nearly cooked through.

Add the water/stock and sauce ingredients and boil for another 2 to 3 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about a half.

Add the cashew nuts and spring/welsh onions and stir well.

Finally, remove from the heat and stir in the whisky.

Serve with plain rice.

*Don’t waste the oil, you’ll need two tablespoons to cook the chicken but the rest can be strained and used for other dishes.

storecupboard

Thai marinated steak

thai steak and rice

I’ve been eating lots of very basic food in January – baked potatoes with cheese, home-made wedges with a fried egg on top, dhal (as in my last post) – that sort of thing. There’s not been much meat involved which is fine but I can’t keep it up for any extended period and it’s not long before I crave a giant juicy steak.

This is a perfect recipe for a spicy, meaty, Friday-night feast. I wouldn’t use cuts like sirloin or rib-eye (which in my view are best simply cooked with no sauce or marinade to hide their delicate flavour), but it works tremendously well with rump steak which is cheaper and a little less flavoursome. Do still try to buy decent rump steak from your butcher if you can, or the best that the supermarket has to offer.

Served with salad I wondered whether this recipe might be good if you’re cutting out carbohydrates, only then I realised that the dressing has 2 teaspoons of sugar in it (which of course is the most evil carb of all, or so I’ve been reminded almost every-day this year). Perhaps though you could use some sugar substitute which I’m sure they sell in Holland and Barrett.

This dish also works well as a dinner party starter. Steak is really difficult to cook for a larger group (unless you have multiple griddle pans) but with this recipe one large steak, cut thinly, can stretch to serve up to 8 people as a starter or as one of a number of dishes in a banquet.

Thai marinated steak over rice or salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4-8 as a sharing starter

  • A large piece of best rump steak (enough for two as a main course)

Marinade

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • A small bunch of coriander stalks
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 fresh red chilli, or 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar

Combine the marinade ingredients in a mini chopper or food processor and blend well. You can also do this in a pestle and mortar. Spread the mixture over the steak and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours.

When you are ready to cook the steak, remove as much of the marinade from the steak as you can while you heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat. You will not need to add any additional oil if you are using a griddle but if you are using a frying pan then add a tablespoon of oil to the pan before adding the steak.

Cook the steak for about 3-4 minutes on either side. Keep the heat really high and don’t move the steak around the pan during cooking and turn just once.

Remove the steak from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest while you make the dressing.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together and stir well.

With rice

If you are serving with rice then cut the steak up into thin strips, place over the cooked rice (to cook see my post Nice Rice) and spoon over the dressing. Add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.

With salad
Make a salad using one small soft leaf lettuce, ½ a cucumber (chopped into small chunks), a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved) and 4 spring onions (chopped). Slice the steak thinly and place over the prepared salad. Spoon over the dressing and add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.