This onion paste was an experiment replacing all ingredients except onions with Gochujang in Alison Roman’s (NYT food columnist) shallot pasta sauce. Gochujang is a fermented paste of glutinous rice, soybeans and salt. The flavors are earthy, salty and sweet all at the same time – very versatile for cooking! Gochujang and onions, as I’ve learnt are very complementary partners. Use this to give your soup that extra kick, or spread it on tortilla wraps before loading it with avocado and scrambled eggs for a burrito. Just one piece of advice – don’t underestimate the amount of onions you need, you’ll know this when you decide to make a “big batch” and end up eating it all for breakfast 😉
Ingredients(Makes 4 tbsp of paste – only!)
2 tbsp Gochujang paste, 10 small red onions/shallots, 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tbsp hot water
Time: Prep – 10 mins, Cook – 10 mins
Prepare for battle against the onions by running your knife under water (this helps prevent you from tearing up – or at least mentally!!). Slice onions thinly and set aside.
Gochujang paste can be really sticky to dealt with so break this down first. In a bowl, mix together Gochujang, hot water and olive oil until combined.
In a small pan with ~ 3tbps of olive oil at medium heat, fry the onions until you see them turning a golden brown. At this point, pour in the paste, continuing to stir the onions. The water in the paste will cause some moisture so be patient as this will evaporate. Keep stirring and stop when you see that the onions have turned slightly crispy and become a deeper shade of brown/orange. Use immediately or store in in the fridge if you are able to exercise self control 🙂
I woke up one morning desiring jam for my pancakes. A quick look in the fridge and there were the leftover tinned cherries swimming in its syrup, following an evening of Wisconsin style old fashion (a whiskey based concoction with muddled cherries). Was it possible? 5 minutes later with some heat, we were rewarded with a sticky, caramel and tart like cherry jam. We all need shortcuts sometimes, and this one is worth doing.
Tinned fruit – You can use cherries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, pears etc. Don’t throw away the syrup that comes with it, this is what helps it cook
In a pan or small pot, throw in desired amount of tinned fruit and roughly an equal proportion of syrup. Break up the tinned fruit to desired size – I like mine chunky so I just let the heat do its work. If the fruit comes in big sizes, do yourself a favor by slicing it to chunks before throwing it into the pot. Simmer on medium heat (not covering the pot/pan) until the syrup has reduced and consistency is sticky. This takes me 5 minutes for 1 to 2 servings of jam so if you make a big batch, this will no doubt take longer.
Serve next to pancakes, keep it to pair with some cheese and crackers or if you’re feeling adventurous try it in your cake batter (I haven’t tried but let me know how it goes)!
Hummus, the well loved snack, eat with some pretzels, bread or spread on a wrap before adding your veggies. This beetroot hummus was accidental, as we had some old beetroot in the fridge but what a transformation when combined with chickpeas. The sweet and acidic beetroot cuts the fat and starch of the chickpeas, with a bright fuscia pink display that is pleasing to the eyes. Eat with your eyes they said, so add in that old beetroot into hummus if you want to give it new life!
1 can of chickpeas, 3 tbsp of chickpea liquid from can, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 beetroot (sliced), 5 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
All ingredients into food processor and churn until desired texture. It is that easy!
For me, a well done roasted cauliflower must be crispy and salty on the outside, and soft with a mellow sweet on the inside. Many recipes call for throwing the full bulb of cauliflower into the oven, but this does not cook evenly due to its irregular size. So, deconstruct it by slicing through the branches (facing this side down), and then showering it with olive oil, S&P, turmeric and garlic cloves. Do not be fooled if it looks golden brown. You want a shade darker before you start the indulgence.
1 head of cauliflower, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper Optional: Sprinkle over some sumac (a middle eastern spice) once cooked
Preheat oven to 200C. To slice the cauliflower without dismembering the head (this can be crumby otherwise), cut through its branches, keeping the branches intact. Each branch is likely to be too big so slice further into halves. Place the cauliflower slices spread out across the tray. Cover the cauliflower abundantly with olive oil (you can reuse this oil after cooking), ensuring the bottom of each cauliflower has oil surrounding it. This is important to allow the heat with oil to fry the cauliflower and achieve crispy texture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (don’t worry about this, you can add more after cooking if insufficient). Place in oven for at least 40 min or until it has turned a shade darker than golden brown.
Nick was running late. It was 8.10 am in Sheffield. I wasn’t the one in need of a full English breakfast today. I was all dressed, ready for a ridiculous run that I probably overpromised my unconditioned heart. It was beautiful outside, the sun in its full glory; a rarity in north England. My phone rings and I get confirmation that for the first time I was not the one suffering from the Wednesday 1-pound shots. So, I decided to do this alone – where was I running to? I did not know but I just did.
Like a lost soul I ran and found myself in Endcliffe park where only pensioners and dog walkers treaded the paths. It was far too early for any student to be up. A sign beckoned, “Peak District”. How far did I need to run to get to this? I took the risk. Into the woods and onto the dirt tracks, adrenaline and fresh air pushed me through. I crossed a road, up some hills. And then silence. I heard nothing, no vehicles, no people, no dogs. It was just me, the grazing sheep and peak district. Serendipity.
I kept wandering to find myself near a farm house. From a distance, stood 3 figures, sharing and admiring the surrounding beauty. I soon caught up, exchanged “good mornings” and smiles. But something else caught my eye – a path with a “No trespassing sign”. They say curiosity kills the cat. The happy outcome of my earlier risk taking gave confidence as the vast, captivating meadow called out to me.
I found soon after that we were all disobedient as the family of 3 had caught up with me. Perhaps this was some short cut back home. The old man decides to have a chat with me. He points to a weathered tree some 5 metres away and in his words “Go to that tree. There will be a hole on the trunk. Look through it and there, you will find the most beautiful picture.” I was left there to ponder whilst the 3 of them carried on ahead of me. This was all rather weird but the prospect of discovery got me there. And yet this was not going to be easy. A sign on the fence proclaiming “Danger! Electrocution risk”, stood between the tree and I. I was not born tall. A taller person could’ve easily maneuvered himself across this fence. After over-analysing the situation, I leaped over. Writing this now is a testament to my survival 😊
Finally, the last risk taken and here was my tree waiting for me! The hole as described by the old man was easy to find; a big gaping hole in the centre. I peered in and saw the sun. What did he want me to see? I moved around to change perspectives and saw a house. If you observed me then, you might have thought what my crazy self was doing.
I gave up and thought about what the old man said. Then it hit me. Of course we all define happiness and beauty differently. What was beautiful to this man might not be as beautiful to me. I found happiness in discovering the peak district and feeling at peace with the quietness it offered. A moment of serendipity! Upon further reflection, perhaps he was trying to tell me that the simplest things in life are the most beautiful things. Like the sun that first met my eyes as I peered into the hole. I ran back to my halls hoping that I’d meet that old man again to talk about this. I would never see him again but I realized how he impacted my life.
Dedicated to my friend Nick who passed 5 years ago. Thanks for teaching me how to make sushi and upside-down cake but most importantly, being that forgiving friend who would always carry me home. Missing you on this day, my dear friend xxx
When self love is most needed, turn to claypot pork. Observe as layers upon layers of flavor build up with each passing day. It is hard to get sick of, but when you finally do, turn into a broth or simply layer over some dry noodles, adding some chilli oil/flakes. Eat to your heart’s content with sappy film.
Base ingredients (8 servings)
400g of lean pork, 600g of fatty pork (belly or ribs – I like ribs as the bones give added flavor), 6 garlic cloves, 2 thumbs of ginger, mushrooms, spring onions, 1 tbsp mustard (or wasabi/hot sauce), 1 tbsp black bean paste (or 6 crushed olives), soya sauce.
Optional and/or vegetarian options: Root vegetables such as carrots, radish & tofu.
Time: Prep – 1 hour, Cook – 2 hours (or more if desired)
Marinade pork in 3 tbsp of soya sauce for 1 hour. Thinly slice garlic and ginger. After the hour, sear the pork in a claypot (Le Creuset or a deep pot) with some olive oil at medium heat, being mindful that the meat will stick to the bottom but if you give it time (~2 mins), a layer will form on the surface of the meat and you will be able to move the pork around easily. Set the pork aside in a bowl once golden brown. Using the leftover oil from the pork, fry garlic and ginger until golden brown, then add in pork, including the juices in the bowl – this is all flavor. Mix it all together with the mustard, black bean paste and another 3 tbsp of soya sauce. Add 0.5 cup of water and let simmer for 30 mins at low heat with lid on. Check on it now and again to ensure there’s still sufficient liquid that covers just a quarter of the pork. Preheat oven to 200C.
After 30 mins on the stove, add another 0.5 cup water and place into the oven with claypot lid on at 200C for at least 1 hour. If you don’t have a pot that can be put into the oven, keep the pork on the stove with lid on at low heat, and stir every 20 mins to make sure the pork or sauce hasn’t stuck to the bottom. If the sauce looks too reduced, add abit more water.
Once pork is sufficiently tender to you, take it out of the oven and stir in sliced mushrooms and spring onions at low heat on the stove. Cover with lid for about 1 minute and you’re ready to eat with rice, pasta, noodles, mash.
Note: Always add the faster cooking veggies at the end as otherwise it will become part of the sauce – there is nothing wrong with this, but if you want some texture only do so at the end. Harder veggies like carrots can go in just before placing in the oven.
These are addictive and too easy to make – I once intended to make a confit for pasta sauce and it ended up on bread, in our mouths, devoured within the hour. Especially if you have a sour tomato, turning it into a confit is the best way to go. The high heat, with the tomato skin allows the tomato to steam at its core, releasing sugars and juices that would flavour the olive oil and garlic (once acidic turns a caramel sweet) surrounding it. Store these for days and use for anything and everything.
Any kind of tomatoes (ripe or unripe), olive oil, garlic cloves, salt and pepper
Time: Prep – 5 mins, Cook – 40 mins
I like to use a deep oven dish for this to allow the tomatoes and garlic to simmer well in the olive oil and for the juices to be easily scooped out once cooked. Preheat oven to 200C. Pound garlic cloves (only once will do) with skin on to lightly release juices. On your oven dish, keep the tomatoes compact, spread garlic cloves out. Drizzle over with olive oil until the oil is observed to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper over dish. Place in oven for 40 mins at 200C. Your tomatoes are ready when they look shriveled and the garlic skin has turned a golden brown.
As tempting as it looks and smells, never ever pop one of those tomatoes into your mouth right after cooking 😉
Simply eat with toast – In a bowl, add the tomato confit with the cooked oil, a cooked garlic clove and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Layer over bread and avocado
Turn into pasta sauce – Prick tomatoes and garlic lightly, mix and then add cooked pasta
Stew – Add into a meat or fish stew, or into a ratatouille
Store – Store in the fridge with more olive oil for when you need to use it next, and notice that the flavours would have also developed
I once worked in a café in Richmond, London serving excellent wraps and coffee. Manning the cooking station, I recall the pressures of lunchtime hour as patrons watched me flatten dough to a consistent thickness and then quickly (but carefully) thrusting it into the wood fired oven for 7 seconds before adding their desired protein/veg and Lebanese condiments. The visual of these movements and the show that the dough put on in the oven was a playful distraction to the hungry crowd, and I soon came to realise that people will wait for good food, if they can see and be part of the process. I will not replicate the dough made in London, for it requires yeast which takes time plus you and I don’t have wood fired ovens at home. So instead I give you flatbread that your kids can have fun with and you can easily cook on a pan, in any shape or form.
In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients and mix until a ball shaped dough is formed. You might have to adjust the ingredients depending on your environment but this is also the beauty of the flatbread – you will get it right no matter what. If you feel that the dough is too dry or crumby, add more water. If it’s too wet, add more flour. The best way to know this is to look at the palms of your hands after you’ve tried to form the dough with the base measurements I’ve shared. If the entire dough sticks to your palms without falling off, you need more flour. If the mixture or your palms looks cakey or crumby, add abit more water. What you want ultimately, is for the container holding your dough to be relatively clean around the sides. For good measure, leave the dough in your container covered for about 1 hour – this is to ensure the ingredients are well combined and also, for some gluten to form. Alternatively, allow your kids to play with it – constant stretching of the dough also encourages gluten development.
After the hour has passed and on a flat surface dusted with flour, divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Dust your palms with flour and take each part and shape into a ball (doesn’t need to be perfect). Dust the surface of the ball with flour and with a rolling pin (or your hands), flatten the dough evenly to the thickness desired. Do not strive for perfection with this dough – if it turns out oval or square vs circle, let it be. Even if you can’t roll your cooked flatbread into a wrap, you can always use it as a food plate, or a side.
Once happy with the size and thickness, heat a pan at medium heat. Place your flatbread onto the pan, exercise patience, and trust that it will not stick onto the pan. Watch as the dough puffs up (depending on where the air bubbles are, your entire bread might puff up or small pockets of it will puff up – again, no right or wrong). This is the point where you can turn your flatbread over and you’ll notice that it will puff up slightly again. Once you are happy with the color, take it off the stove.
Roll into a wrap, tear and eat with soup or stew or use as pizza base (cook the dough as per method first before adding your toppings to go into the oven).
If your bread has turned stale, or if you’re simply sick of it, turn it into bread crumbs. The key to good crumbs is to take the moisture out of it – so the staler it is, the better! You can do this either by naturally leaving it out to air or in the fridge or toasting it in the oven. Bread crumbs can be stored in the fridge or freezer for when you’d like to coat over fish/meat, garnish on soup, layer over an apple crumble. So don’t throw away that bread 😊
Stale bread or toasted bread, salt, pepper, herb (of choice – I like rosemary for meats or dill for seafood), lemon rind
Prep time: 10 mins
Cut the stale bread into parts (doesn’t need to be nice). Grate half a lemon’s worth of rind. In a food processor, add in bread, rind, pepper, salt and a sprig of rosemary leaves. Process until fine.
If you don’t have a food processor, toast until hard (if you press your finger on the bread lightly, this shouldn’t bounce up) – this allows it to break and crumb easily so use your hands to break it apart. Takes more time but take it as exercise!
Chicken or pork schnitzel (will be released soon), layer over stews, soups, apple crumble
If you’re looking for a healthy coleslaw this is it. As a substitute to mayonnaise, opt for a mix of olive oil, vinegar and mustard for “kick”. Choice of vegetables are entirely up to you but use the 5 flavor elements guide to help balance the flavors.
Basic ingredients(6 servings)
1 cabbage, 2 carrots, 2 radish, 1 beetroot, handful of pickled onions, sesame seeds, 3 tbsp vinegar, ½ lemon, olive oil, 1 tsp English mustard. If you like mayonnaise but want a healthier option, go for yogurt .
Apples, nuts, spring onion, coriander leaves, kale, bean sprouts
Prep time: 10 mins
Slice all the vegetables thinly. In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, lemon, mustard and olive oil until combined. Mix dressing with all the vegetables and store in the fridge.
Wraps, roasts, bbq meats or fish, add into some leftover pasta