It’s obviously a sign of getting old that my idea of a really fun Saturday night these days is having the luxury of time to spend hours making something interesting for dinner. I got a pasta machine for my birthday last month, so this week’s culinary adventure was making tortellini and ravioli from scratch. I’ve wanted to try this for ages as the veggie fillings you find in readymade ones are often limited, and I love the taste of fresh pasta.
I used a basic dough recipe from Leith’s Vegetarian Bible (I halved the recipe quantity – 225g ’00′ flour, two eggs and a drizzle of olive oil – and still had enough to make four portions) and improvised a simple mushroomy filling with shallot, garlic and spinach.
Rolling the dough and putting the shapes together was surprisingly easy though pretty time-consuming. I made ravioli by sandwiching two circles together, and tortellini by folding less filling into one circle and bending into a little shell shape. The tortellini went in the freezer for another night.
Final step, boiling the pasta briefly, holding my breath that they wouldn’t burst or disintegrate (per my failed attempt at making gnocchi a while ago), then a final quick fry in butter to add a crispy texture.
Served with cheeses I had to hand in the fridge – manchego and mozzarella – and a drizzle of truffle oil, it tasted really pretty good! I’ll definitely try this again with more adventurous fillings – thinking roasted aubergine, oven-dried tomato with veggie chorizo, and even potato for a double-carby hit.
I’m kind of a Masterchef fangirl – in fact, I love any cookery show on TV – so when Handpicked Media extended an invite to a cookery demo night with last year’s champ Tim Anderson I jumped at it. I loved Tim’s cooking on the show – a modern fusion-y take on Japanese – and was pleased to see the menu for the night was of the same ilk.
The event was sponsored by Oral B, for whom Tim is a new ambassador, and throughout the night they highlighted the kind of damage that everyday foods can do to your teeth – not just the sugary treats you might expect, but acidic foods, from tomatoes to tea, can erode away enamel and leave your teeth sensitive, stained and generally unhappy. But back to the food for a sec…
Tim demonstrated both of the dishes for us, then we had a go recreating them in teams of two. First up, sashimi (or tofu for the veggies) with various seaweeds, a passion fruit foam, and dashi granita. Despite looking super fancy, this dish was really easy to put together – the main ingredient needs no cooking and the foam is simply whizzed with a stick blender to give it texture. The eating was a lovely blend of temperatures and textures, and the sweet foam really lifted the tofu.
The main dish was tea-marinated egg on a crispy leek nest with chana puree – most definitely the kind of thing that’d jump out at me on a restaurant menu. Despite looking exquisite and complex it was again really quite simple and cooked almost in real-time (apart from the egg, which needs 24 hours to soak up the chai tea broth). I’d definitely cook it at home again; the flavours and textures were fantastic. If you’d like to try it too, the recipe’s at the bottom of this blog post!
These crispy leeks would make an awesome accompaniment to loads of dishes, I reckon
While we ate, one of Oral B’s scientists, Adam, told us about their new toothpaste, Pro-expert, which addresses the problems food can cause to your tooth enamel by creating an effective barrier as you brush. I’m generally skeptical of such claims (and I don’t think these ads that smack of pseudo-science do any favours) but Adam really knew his stuff, and I came away quite convinced that it’s worth investing in a good toothpaste. I’ve been using the sample tube we were given and I swear my teeth feel cleaner already. You get a free sample too right here.
One of Tim’s next projects is running a cookery tour holiday to Japan, yours for just £5k. Hey Handpicked, I’d happily go to this too in the name of blog-journalism, k? CALL ME!
Hen’s Nest of Tea-Stained Egg, Leek Bhaji, and Chana Masala Puree
For the eggs:
1 tsp chai tea
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 thread of saffron
For the leek bhaji:
30g plain flour
1 tspn garam masala
½ tspn chilli powder
vegetable oil, for frying
For the chana masala:
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp chilli powder (or more if you like more heat)
200g tinned tomatoes
150ml water, tomato juice or stock
250g chickpeas (tinned or cooked dried)
6g tamarind paste
½ tsp paprika
1g garam masala
1 tsp peaty whisky
The day before:
Boil the eggs for 5 minutes (add the eggs when the water is already boiling and keep at a rapid boil) then submerge in cold water. Steep the tea, soy sauce, and saffron in 240ml hot water. Allow to cool, then shell the eggs and marinate in the liquid for 24 hours.
For the leeks:
Cut the leeks into 2 inch chunks, then slice into a fine julienne. Combine the spices and flour and toss with the leeks, shaking off any excess. Fry in 180ºC oil until golden brown and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt.
For the chana:
Chop the onions and garlic and saute in vegetable oil along with the coriander, cumin, and chilli until soft. Add the tomatoes, water/juice/stock, saffron, chickpeas, tamarind paste, other spices and a pinch of salt and cook until the liquid has reduced. Add the butter and whisky and blend with a hand blender to a smooth puree. Pass through a fine sieve.
Place a dollop of chana puree onto each plate, spreading out artily if you lik. Make the leeks into a little nest in the middle of the plate on top of the chana and place an egg in the centre. Garnish with pea shoots, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime, if you have them to hand.
Serves 4, recipe adapted from Tim Anderson for Oral B.
I’m definitely feeling quite sluggish and podgy after an indulgent Christmas, so it’s – cliched – time for some healthy eating. I got some lovely recipebooks as gifts so I’ve been leafing through and making notes of some to try, but here’s one I made up after finding a bag of polenta meal in the cupboard. Yes, it has cheese on, but corn is a healthier alternative to wheat pizza base and it’s loaded with veggies.
Toppings of choice - I used courgette, beef tomato, caramelised onions and Fontina cheese
Get the tomato sauce on first. I always make the magical, mythical tomato-butter sauce thusly: tip the can of tomatoes into a pan along with a large knob of butter and half a red onion, halved again into two wedges. Bring to a gentle simmer and leave for 30-45 mins, stirring occasionally, until it's jammy and delicious.
Make the polenta: Bring the stock to a simmer in a pan then beat in the polenta. Stir over the heat for five mins until smooth and thick. Grease a shallow cake tin, plop in the polenta and spread to a thickness of about 1cm. Leave to cool a little.
Prepare your toppings - I used the tomato sauce, caramelised red onion (gently fried with sugar, salt and balsamic vinegar), sliced beef tomato, courgette and Fontina cheese - and get building like a normal pizza. Pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted.
Serve with mini roasties and mayonnaise (well, I did say semi-healthy...)
Mmmm, I love me a Japanese-style curry: popularly known as katsu and made of breaded deep-fried pork fillet (katsu means pork in Japanese) covered in rich curry sauce, veggie versions with pumpkin croquettes are often found in restaurants too. I made a healthier version at home using shallow-fried seasonal squash and green beans, and making the sauce from scratch. I think it’d also be nice with potato, tofu or even aubergines.
1 patty pan squash, or half a kabocha (Japanese pumpkin). Sweet potato or regular pumpkin would probably do as well if you can't find those.
10-12 green beans
Sticky rice, to serve
1 white onion
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp medium curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
500ml hot vegetable stock (I used Marigold bouillon powder)
1 tsp cornflour
Cut the squash into 1/2 cm slices, avoiding the core. Heat a wok with some oil and cook the squash on a medium heat, turning often until caramelised and soft throughout - should take about 20 minutes. Top & tail the green beans, halve and parboil for 5 minutes until just soft.
For the sauce: slice the onion, press the garlic and gently fry together with a little oil for 10 minutes until soft and golden. Add the cornflour and mix for a minute, then add the liquid ingredients and spices. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until reduced and thickened. (If the sauce still looks thin, mix in a little more cornflour dissolved in hot water.)
Whizz the sauce roughly with a stick blender to break up the onions a bit, then press through a sieve and return to the heat for 5 minutes more. Leave to cool a little bit before serving - just layer rice and the vegetables in a bowl and spoon over the lovely sauce.
Bánh mi is a South-East Asian sandwich made with a French baguette (an adoption from France’s colonial rule) and filled with spicy barbecued filling – usually meat – and a crunchy pickled raw vegetable salad for contrast. I first ate one in Japan, and since then several bánh mi joints have popped up in London too. Sadly there aren’t often veggie options, so I adapted a recipe for beef bánh mi in Rick Stein’s brill Far Eastern Odyssey book, using tofu and some easier-to-find ingredients. It still tasted pretty good to me, and here’s the recipe (for 2).
200g block deep-fried tofu (I used Dragonfly brand, use regular firm tofu if you can’t find it)
Pack of 2 ready-to-bake white baguettes
2 cloves garlic
half a medium white onion
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 medium-strength chilli
1 large carrot
half a large cucumber
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Small sprigs of mint and coriander, chopped
Ingredients from my garden!
Blend all the marinade ingredients except the chilli into a rough paste. Finely chop the chilli and stir that in.
Chop the tofu into 2cm chunks, toss with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler or coarse grater to slice the carrot and cucumber into ribbons. Stir the in the other pickle ingredients, cover and refrigerate.
Sprinkle the baguettes with a little water and pop into the oven. Bake for around ten minutes – they should be a little golden and still soft.
Heat up a griddle pan. Tip on the tofu and griddle, turning often, until crisp all over. Pour on any leftover marinade for the last minute or two.
Squeeze any juice out of the vegetable pickle, and serve everything together as a make-your-own feast. Sriracha hot sauce and sweet chilli sauce are a must to accompany!
Is summer really over now? Judging by the weather and my increasing tendency towards hoodies and comfort food, it might be heading that way… here’s some of the autumnal-tinged things I’ve been cooking lately.
Wholemeal bagels, which I’ll look forward to eating for my breakfast this week. I used the same recipe as last time, but with wholemeal flour and sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
A delicious apple, almond and vanilla cake to take over to a friend’s for Saturday lunch. I followed this recipe, but omitted the cider and added a dash of vanilla syrup, because I love vanilla in anything.
Indians dosas with sweet potato filling from Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Dosas are thin chickpea flour pancakes, often found in South Indian cooking, filled with a lightly spiced potato mash.
I haven’t cooked Japanese food for ages, but the lovely baby aubergines from the greengrocer’s were crying out to be teriyaki-ed, and patty pan squash got a sesame sauce.
A delightfully sunny weekend and an inspiring trip to Maltby Street market (about which more later..) put me right in the mood for lovely summery food using delicious in-season vegetables. I’ve written up the recipes below, let me know if you have a go making them. What’s your favourite summer food?
I’ve been looking for courgette flowers to cook with forever – even resorting to growing my own (first photo above), which seem to be coming along nicely but aren’t quite ready for full harvest yet. Luckily I found them fully grown with baby courgettes attached in Booth’s at Maltby Street. I cooked a prototype garden flower with feta only, but it was a bit overpowering. Mixing it with mozzarella makes it more mellow and adds the lovely milky chewiness of mozzarella too. I made in into a meal with some chickpeas and a tomato sauce – our local grocer has amazing beef tomatoes in at the moment which are full of flavour.
Cheese-and-mint stuffed courgette flowers with chickpeas and roast tomato sauce
4 courgette flowers, with baby courgettes attached
ball of mozzarella cheese
2 large spring onions
1/4 pack feta cheese
Spring of fresh mint and oregano
400g can of chickpeas
1/4 pack halloumi cheese
Garlic clove, sumac and chilli flakes
1 large ripe beef tomato
330ml bottle of lager (any will do, I happened to have Mexican Corona in the fridge)
Prep the courgette flowers: wash well and carefully cut out the stamen inside. Cut the courgettes off two of the flowers and slice thickly. Put a wok onto a med-high heat with about 2 inches of vegetable oil (or use a deep-fryer, if you have one).
In a bowl, mush up the mozzarella with the feta, torn mint leaves, 1 finely chopped spring onion and seasoning. Make the beer batter: tip half of the beer (should be fridge-cold) into a jug and whisk in flour gradually until you get a pretty thick batter.
Take a quarter of the filling mix, pop into each flower and twist a little to seal in. Dunk into the batter and into the wok (I fried two at a time). Turn after a few minutes until browned all over. Tip onto kitchen roll to drain a little.
Chickpeas: drain, rinse and boil the chickpeas quickly in a little veg stock to soften. Dice the halloumi and fry in olive oil with the sliced courgettes, other spring onion, and spices. Drain the chickpeas and toss in the pan of fried bits.
Tomato sauce: slice the tomato thickly, season and drizzle with olive oil and oregano leaves. Grill on maximum until bubbling. Whiz up in a processor and strain through a sieve.
I first tried samphire, a delicious salty sea vegetable, in a fabulous risotto with girolles at Malmaison but it’s not often used in vegetarian dishes – it usually pairs with fish. But it’s also a little similar to asparagus so I thought it’d go well with the same flavours – poached eggs, new potatoes and hollandaise sauce.
This dish is a lot about the cooking processes of all the ingredients, but it’s best served warm or even room temperature so you can leave things to sit as you prepare (and you can reuse the potato boiling pan for the samphire and eggs!). I served with some warm bread to mop up the hollandaise.
Samphire with new potatoes, poached egg, roasted cherry tomato and hollandaise
A large handful of samphire
About ten large or 12-14 small new potatoes
A dozen cherry tomatoes
For the hollandaise: 2 egg yolks, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and butter
Halve the tomatoes, season and drizzle with olive oil and roast in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes until a little puckered and dried out.
Halve the potatoes if large and boil for 12-15 minutes until cooked through. The samphire just needs a minute or two boiling, I used the same water as the potatoes. Lightly poach the eggs in vinegared water.
For the hollandaise, I just used Delia’s recipe (half quantity for two) – I was amazed as it was my first time making it and it didn’t split or curdle.
Dress the potatoes and samphire with a little butter, pile into a bowl and top with the egg and hollandaise, with the roast tomatoes on the side.
I think I’m slowly getting the hang of this baking lark: a good oven and digital weighing scale work wonders. I’m trying to bake something every Sunday to take into work on Monday morning — I think my colleagues are happy being guinea pigs! Above are this week’s effort, bagels from this great recipe – and below some yummy olive breadsticks using a twist on the same basic recipe.
I got the idea for these breadsticks in aforementioned local coffee shop, Bodega 50. They were proudly displayed on the counter with a ‘warning: addictive’ sign — and indeed they were, to the extent that I had a little go at recreating them the very same evening, after devouring one with my coffee (an oddly pleasing combination). Mine weren’t quite as good as Bodega’s – and didn’t come with a side of delicious flat white – but I’d definitely make them again. The perfect treat for someone like me who’s more into savoury than sweet bites.
Mix a 7g sachet of dried yeast with equal parts milk, warm water and olive oil (about 200ml in total) and a teaspoon of sugar. Whisk and leave it to bubble away. Mix 450g strong white bread flour and a few grinds of salt together and add the wet mix to dry, combining with a spoon then your hands. You’ll probably need a bit of extra warm water to make it bind: the dough should be fairly firm and not sticky.
Knead for as long as you can be bothered — at least 5 mins, 10 is better. Smear with olive oil, cover in clingfilm and leave somewhere warm for an hour – doubled in size, you know the deal.
Throw in a handful of roughly chopped juicy green olives, preferably the nice deli kind in olive oil – mine had peppers and mushrooms in too – some crumbled feta too if you feel like it. Mash all that into the springy dough, then tease chunks of the mixture into batons and pop on baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. I got about 10 short, fat sticks out of my dough.
Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with rock salt (optional – I like it salty) and bake in a 200 degree oven for 15-20 mins, until they’ve gone attractively brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath. Try to resist eating them all when oven-fresh.