Tofu is boring, right? Well, there’s no doubt it can be but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It’s most boring attribute – that it tastes of nothing – can also be it’s most attractive one in that it’s a great carrier for flavour. Texture is also an issue for many people but that too can easily be overcome. To make this dish I cut a block of the Tofu commonly found in Asian supermarkets (in water) into flat oblongs and laid them in a simple marinade of lime juice, salt and sugar overnight then turned it carefully once the following morning before cooking it that night. To get those nice chargrill lines and texture I then lifted it out, patted it dry, brushed it with a bit of neutral flavoured oil and cooked it in a hot griddle pan on both sides.
To use it for a Thai style stir fry I did things slightly differently to the usual method which involves first stir frying the meat and removing it before cooking the rest of the ingredients – aromatics, vegetables then sauce – and adding the meat back in at the end. For the Tofu version I chargrilled it as described above and set the oblongs to one side on a plate. After a few minutes it firms up enough to be cut into strips. Then it’s just a matter of starting the stir fry off with the aromatics followed by the vegetables and sauce and then very gently turning the Tofu strips through at the end, trying not to break up the pieces.
The stir fry ingredients can be any Thai or Chinese option of your choosing; in fact, it could be any combination of vegetables and sauce you want but the last thing it should be is boring.
I’m not going to try and sell this recipe to you because some things just sell themselves. All I’ll say is that if you can knock up a cake mix you can make these. So, with no more ado…
200g dark chocolate, at least 72% but 85% is better
200g sugar – use caster sugar if you have it but normal granulated sugar will work fine
140 grams plain flour
10 grams cocoa powder
1 tin Carnation Caramel
1 tsp vanilla essence
18cm x 28cm shallow baking tray (or similar)
Butter and line your baking tray and set the oven to gas mark 4 or equivalent. Melt the chocolate gently in a bowl over a pan of boiling water set on the lowest heat (don’t let the bowl touch the water), or melt it on a low setting in the microwave.Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy – the usual drill – and then add the eggs bit by bit with the vanilla essence & good pinch of sea salt. Sift in the flour and cocoa and stir thoroughly in. Then finally pour in the melted chocolate and combine again – be gentle with it. Now you have your brownie mix.
Pour half the mixture into the baking tray and level it off. Take forkfuls (not spoonfuls – there’s a reason for this) and daub it onto the layer of brownie mix, pulling it into the most even layer you can with the tines of the fork. You won’t get it completely even so don’t worry about that, but using a fork instead of a spoon or palette knife makes it less likely that you will drag bits of the brownie mixture up into the caramel. Sprinkle as much sea salt on the caramel as you fancy, but not too much. I use about a teaspoon.
Finally, carefully smooth the other half of the brownie mixture over the caramel (which you can use a spoon or palette knife for). Bake for 25 minutes or until the centre looks just – and only just – set. Allow to cool completely and cut into whatever size squares your conscience will allow.
Ramen eggs are one of those things I didn’t think I could make at home, but after a few goes (during the first of which I marinaded the eggs in their shells and couldn’t work out why the eggs hadn’t changed colour) and a bit of eggsperimenting, I’ve cracked it. Sorry, no more of that.
Most recipes tell you to use a large amount of (expensive) mirin but you really don’t need to. OK, so your ramen eggs won’t be 100% authentic but they will be really good to eat. To make them basically, you’re boiling eggs, chilling them under a cold tap, peeling them and marinading them in a soy sauce-based marinade which is slightly sharp and slightly sweet for 24 hours. That’s it. I get a big tea mug and one third fill it with soy sauce, then add a couple of teaspoons of sugar and a good slug of black Chinese vinegar but, I reckon any dark vinegar – sherry vinegar for example – would work. Then top the mug up with water, stir until the sugar has dissolved and you’re done. Apart from boiling and chilling the eggs, this is as hard as it gets to end up with beautiful eggs for your ramen.
My two top tips are to buy the best eggs you can find (I use Waitrose Legbar ones for this) and to put a tiny pin hole in the base of each egg before boiling them so the shells come off really easily.
So, to recap:-
- Make the marinade as described above.
- Put a pin prick in the base of 6 large good quality eggs.
- Boil them for 7 minutes eggsactly (sorry, I know, I promised, but I can’t help it).
- Chill under running water for 10 minutes, then peel and pop in the marinade.
- Refrigerate overnight or for up to 24 hours and use in the ramen of your choice.
Buttery mash, goose fat roasties, deep fried chips; the combination of the humble spud with some form of fat is always a winner, but there are times when we might want to cut down the calories a bit whilst still getting our potato hit.
This Hasselback potato recipe is useful at those times because of a few tricks – one of which I got from my mum – and a bit of patience. I won’t write out a recipe as such, I’ll just tell you how I made that lovely big bowl full you see here using only a tablespoon of oil. First slice your potatoes – any kind – using the hedgehog style shown above i.e. almost all the way through in a row. Then steam them carefully, so they hold together, and lift them into a large oven proof dish for which you have a lid (or cover it in foil). My mum’s trick is to then pour over hot stock, with one tablespoon of oil in it, to about half way up the potatoes (she does beef but chicken or veg stock will also work, of course). Pop them in the oven and cook on about gas mark 4 for an hour then take the lid off for another 45 minutes. ‘Baste’ them a few times using the stock, which will all eventually be absorbed into the potatoes giving them a great flavour and leaving the small amount of oil left to brown the tops.
Unless you live by the sea lobster can be pretty expensive, so ways to make it go further are always useful. One recipe that makes a small lobster stretch to starters for 4 people is any kind of fritters. Lobster and corn are a popular combination but my husband isn’t a fan of sweetcorn so I was looking for something else to provide the same sweetness with a bit of bite. I hit on the idea of finely cubed red pepper as a substitute and it really worked.
The trick with these little golden bundles of loveliness is to eat them while they’re hot, have a generous dunk in the garlic mayo and forget about the calories. They’re a treat after all!
I small lobster (the frozen kind are best for this – in fact they’re not much use for anything else)
1 red pepper, finely diced
I fresh chilli
3 large spring onions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon self raising flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 egg, beaten
Handful of chopped parsley
1/4 tsp ground fennel
1/4 tsp salt
Oil for deep frying
For the mayonnaise
2 egg yolks
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
Small clove garlic, crushed
500ml flavourless oil, such as groundnut
1/4 tsp salt
First make the mayo by adding the crushed garlic, and apple cider vinegar to the egg yolks in a deep bowl. Using an electric whisk, slowly whisk in the oil until the mayonnaise thickens. Check the seasoning and set aside.
Crack the lobster and pick out all the meat. Chop or snip it with scissors into small chunks and then add all the other ingredients to it (it’s good to do this with your hands). It will be quite firm but that’s good, it means it will hold together. Shape it into tablespoon sized portions. Heat the oil until a cube of bread browns in approx 30 seconds then fry the fritters in small batches until golden. Serve and eat immediately!