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Recipe: Polenta ‘lasagne’

polenta recipe

This recipe is a winner! So easy, very few ingredients, but hearty with a massive flavour ‘pow’. Corn-based polenta is lighter on the digestion than wheat lasagne, and cheese aside it’s pretty healthy. I made it for Josh and my sister, and it disappeared too fast to snap a photo – so I’ve done a little illustration instead.

Polenta ‘lasagne’

Serving Size: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 3-4 sundried tomatoes, halved
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 block ready-made polenta
  • A little loose polenta (cornmeal) or cornflour
  • Handful fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 block solid mozzarella cheese, sliced into 0.5cm pieces

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
  2. To make the tomato sauce, chuck the tomatoes, onion, garlic, sundried tomatoes and butter in a saucepan, half cover and simmer gently for half an hour or so until the tomatoes have broken down. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.
  3. Slice the polenta into roughly 1cm thick slices - you should get 10-12 slices from the block. Dust the pieces on both sides with the cornmeal or cornflour. Shallow fry both sides in a little oil until crisped up - do it batches in a big frying pan.
  4. Turn the heat off on the sauce and stir in the spinach so it wilts down.
  5. Layer up into a baking dish: Start with a third of the sauce, add a layer of polenta slices and a layer of mozzarella pieces, then repeat, ending with sauce and mozzarella on top.
  6. Pop into the oven for about 15 minutes until bubbly and browned. Serve with bread and salad.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2013/06/recipe-polenta-lasagne.html

Quorn, mushroom and mustard casserole

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m not usually a big fan of fakey meat products – I mean, I’m vegetarian for good reason – but there’s something about the cold weather that makes it appealing to fall back on simple protein-based stews and casseroles for dinner. I made up this recipe when my decidedly-omnivorous sister came round as a substitute for a similar dish that my mum makes, and it turned out really nice. It’s not very photogenic I’m afraid, but it does taste much better than it looks!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A classic combo of mushrooms, thyme, and white wine is given texture by the Quorn, which is torn into irregular pieces to give a – dare I say – meatier texture. Low fat creme fraiche gives acidity and a nice saucy base – you could swap it for half or full fat sour cream for a creamier, more decadent result. Mustard gives the whole thing a final warming kick, and serve with buttery mash for ultimate comfort factor. Give it a go!

‘Chicken’, mushroom and mustard casserole

Serving Size: 2-3

‘Chicken’, mushroom and mustard casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 shallots
  • 4 large / 6 medium chestnut mushrooms
  • 3 Quorn fillets or half a Quorn roast
  • Thyme
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 200ml soured cream or creme fraiche
  • 100ml white wine
  • Olive oil and butter

Method

  1. If using the Quorn roast, cook per package instructions. Defrost Quorn fillets if using.
  2. Slice the shallots and mushrooms and fry in a casserole or pan, in a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter, until softened and turning gold. Add the thyme and season very well.
  3. Tear the Quorn into bite-size chunks and add to the pan, and give another 5 minutes so it gets some colour on.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping any tasty stuck-on bits with a wooden spoon. Then add the creme fraiche and mustard and whisk a little to incorporate. Check for seasoning.
  5. Pop into a 200-degree oven, covered, for 20-ish minutes until bubbly and amalgamated.
  6. Serve with mash or rice and some greens.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2013/02/quorn-mushroom-and-mustard-casserole.html

Making Chapattis

Mattar paneer

Since doing an Indian cooking course and having a gander at the beautiful Prashad cook book, my home curry-making has definitely gone up a notch. In particular, Prashad’s mattar paneer is sure to become a weekday dinner staple: it’s so quick and easy yet authentic-tasting, uses storecupboard/freezer ingredients (did you know paneer freezes?!) and feels pretty healthy despite the main ingredient being um, fried cheese. Must be better than a takeaway at least. I like making more interesting rice dishes as an accompaniment too: the lemon, mustard seed and curry leaf rice we made on the course is perfect with a mild, creamy curry, and Prashad’s tumeric dal rice does great with the mattar paneer.

Chapatti
Chapatti

My absolute favourite thing to make however is chapattis, the little wholewheat puffed flatbreads that are so perfect at scooping up handfuls of curry to convey it to the mouth. I use the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ recipe and method, which involves the pretty fun task of toasting the chapattis over an open gas flame to get that wonderful airy texture and charred outside. I even videoed myself doing it, at immense personal risk – you’re welcome. Ignore my filthy hob please.

Finished with a dash of butter, they’re the perfect finishing touch to a homemade curry.

Chapatti

Bibimbap: Korean stone-pot rice

Bibibmap

Amongst my wonderful Christmas gifts was a bibimbap kit from Sous Chef. It’s a Korean dish literally meaning ‘mixed rice’ – a bowl of rice cooked in a stone pot topped with various vegetables and meat or tofu, finished with an egg and seasoned with hot pepper paste. I’ve been wanting to try it again since we had a similar thing in Tokyo. There are also a couple of Korean restaurants serving it in London now, like the aptly-named Bibimbap in Soho.

Bibibmap
Bibibmap
Bibibmap

It turns out that bibimbap, despite looking quite impressive, is really fun to cook and barely even needs a recipe, although I’ve attached my notes below. The cooking process is really just a prep and assembly job: cooking the rice, heating the dolsot and chopping and cooking the veg (simply steamed or sautéed). If you’re alright with multitasking it can be ready in about half an hour.

Bibibmap

The key to an authentic bibimbap is the special stone cooking pot called a dolsot. It’s warmed on the hob and seasoned with sesame oil before adding the rice for its final cooking. The roasting-hot stone imparts a mysteriously wonderful quality to the dish, as well as making delicious crackly morsels of rice around the edges to pick off with your chopsticks. It holds the heat extremely well, cooking the egg yolk and keeping the rice warm as you dig in.

Bibibmap

You can easily adapt the basic recipe to your favourite vegetable/protein combo, and make it vegan by omitting the egg. The one absolutely essential ingredient is the gochujang, a salty, spicy red pepper paste that provides all the seasoning the dish needs. It comes in a pleasingly Asian-looking little tub and will last in the fridge for ages – if you don’t make bibimbap every night anyway, as I’m now tempted to do.

Bibibmap
Bibibmap

For such low effort, the taste is just amazing, and it’s a pretty healthy yet hearty and filling dish. It’s definitely being added to my regular roster. You can buy a bibimbap kit with everything you need to get started from Sous Chef. Let me know if you have a go!

Bibimbap

Serving Size: 2

Bibimbap

Ingredients

  • 200ml Japanese sticky rice
  • Half a pack of tofu puffs*
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 2 heads of pak choi
  • 1 carrot
  • Handful soybeans (I get frozen ones from Tesco)
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 egg
  • Gochujang paste
  • Sesame oil, soy sauce, furikake*
  • * Tofu puffs are tofu chunks that have been frozen then deep-fried, to give a spongy interior with crisp outside. They're really yummy and perfect for bibimbap as they soak up flavours really well. I found mine in the Chinese supermarket. Plain firm tofu fried off would be fine too
  • ** Furikake is a Japanese seasoning made from shiso, seaweed and sesame seeds (and sometimes fish, so check the label). Most supermarkets have it, or substitute with sesame seeds.

Method

  1. If you're using the dolsot for the first time, fill it with cold water and place on a very low heat. Bring up to boil very slowly (the pot can crack if exposed to sudden temperature changes), increasing the heat gradually. Dump out the water, return to the heat and add a splash of sesame oil to the pot. Swirl around so the pot is coated and keep warm while you prepare everything else.
  2. Wash the rice well and drain for 15-20 minutes. Put into a pan with 300ml cold water, cover, bring to boil and simmer very gently for 12 minutes (or follow packet instructions). Leave to cool a little and season with salt and furikake.
  3. Slice all of the veg thinly. Steam the carrot and pak choi in a bamboo steamer over hot water until just tender - about 7 minutes.
  4. Sautee the mushrooms in a mix of vegetable and sesame oil.
  5. Sautee the tofu puffs in a little soy and sesame.
  6. Sautee together the chilli, spring onions and soybeans for a minute or two. Mix into the rice, adding a bit of the gochujang to taste.
  7. Transfer the rice mix to the dolsot - you should hear a nice sizzle as it hits the oil. Separate the egg, keeping the yolk - make a small well in the middle of the rice and drop the egg yolk in. Leave for a couple of minutes to let the yolk heat through and the rice get crispy around the edges.
  8. Arrange your other toppings in sections around the egg, and finish with a blob of gochujang and a sprinkle of furikake. Mix it all together before eating!
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2013/01/bibimbap.html

Recipe: veggie tofu ramen bowl

Ramen is fast becoming a new foody trend, with lots of new places opening up in town serving delicious bowls of noodles swimming in sweet-sour stock. Unfortunately the key component of traditional ramen is a dollop of sizzling pig fat (along with boiled bones to make the stock), so I can’t indulge in the real deal very often. But I’ve made a pretty good take on it at home a few times, perfect for cold nights and very healthy! It gets its body from marinated crispy-fried tofu, and the addition of an egg or two, swirled into the stock, makes it even more filling.

Tofu ramen bowl

Serving Size: 2

Tofu ramen bowl

Ingredients

  • Portion of your favourite noodles - I love these ones
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour + extra for dusting
  • 1 pack firm tofu
  • 1/2 pack mixed stir-fry vegetables - I like a mix with baby corn, spring onion, beanshoots, soybeans, cabbage and carrot.
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 egg (optional)

Method

  1. Mix the seasonings (soy, rice vinegar ,mirin, sugar) in a small bowl.
  2. Bring 1 litre of water to a simmer in a pan. Add half of the seasoning mixture. Mix the cornflour with a little water to form a paste and stir in too.
  3. Add the vegetables (and chilli, if using) and noodles to the pot. They should only take 5 minutes to heat through and soften, a little longer if using dried noodles.
  4. Meanwhile slice the tofu into 1cm slices, blot to remove excess moisture, dust with extra cornflour and fry off in vegetable or sesame oil. When it's becoming golden and crispy, add the remaining seasoning and cook for a minute more, turning the tofu, to give a tasty glaze.
  5. If using the egg, break it into a jug and whisk to combine. Keeping the soup at a simmer, pour the egg into the water in a very thin stream, stirring with a chopstick as you do to make ribbons. This gives the soup extra texture and thickness.
  6. Ladle into a bowl and top with the crisp tofu.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2012/12/recipe-veggie-tofu-ramen-bowl.html