food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

eggplant and tofu in garlic sauce

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I love Sichuan food. It’s so full of robust flavour without overpowering the ingredients. This recipe from Serious Eats has the perfect balance of salt, sweet, sour and spice. All the ingredients you might not recognise are readily available at Asian supermarkets.

Cut 900g (2 lbs) of eggplants into chunks. Place them in a large steamer and steam until the eggplant is completely soft. Set aside. Meanwhile make the sauce by combining 2 teaspoons of Chinkiang or black rice vinegar, ¾ of a cup of Shaoxing wine and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and stir or whisk to combine. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of Doubanjiang (fermented broad bean chilli paste) and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Set aside. Heat a wok or large saucepan over medium heat and and add vegetable oil and 2 smashed cloves of garlic. When the garlic cloves are golden brown and fragrant discard them and turn the heat to high. Add 4 cloves of sliced garlic, the sliced white parts of 2 spring onions and 2-3 tablespoons of thinly sliced preserved Sichuan vegetable (mustard root). Stir and cook until fragrant and just beginning to brown. Stir the sauce and add it, stirring constantly. Add the steamed eggplant and 350g (12 oz) of firm silken tofu cut into chunks and fold gently to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for a few minutes more until thick and glossy. Stir in the chopped green parts of the spring onions and an equal amount of roughly chopped coriander (cilantro). Serve with steamed rice.


Written by michelle picker

August 28, 2019 at 12:15 am

eggplant mexican style

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Eggplant (aubergine), not a common ingredient in traditional Mexican food, is now appearing in modern Mexican cuisine. Here it’s served with a sauce made with tomatillos and chipotle chillies in adobo sauce. Both are sold in cans and widely available where Mexican ingredients are sold.

Slice some eggplants lengthwise into thin slices. Season with salt and pepper and brush with oil. Cook on a barbecue or a hot griddle over medium heat until the eggplant has some colour and is soft inside. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, sauté 1 chopped onion and 2 finely diced cloves of garlic until the onion is translucent. Add 4-6 roughly chopped tomatillos (green tomatoes). Cook for a few minutes until they are softened. Transfer them to a small blender, add some fresh coriander (cilantro) stems and 1 chipotle in adobo sauce as well as some of the sauce. Blend to a suitable consistency and serve over the eggplant. Crumble fresh cheese over the top (I used goat’s cheese) and garnish with some coriander leaves. I served my eggplant with avocado dressed with salt and lime and buttered corn on the cob.

Written by michelle picker

June 5, 2019 at 12:22 am

stuffed poblanos

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Poblanos are mild chillies which originated in Puebla, Mexico. When dried they are known as ancho chillies and the fresh chillies are popular stuffed and roasted. Here’s my version.

Roast or barbecue 4-6 whole poblano chillies and 1 red pepper until they are softening and slightly charred. Meanwhile in a little oil fry 1 finely diced onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until wilted. Add small cubes of butternut pumpkin (squash), ground cumin, dried oregano and salt to taste. Continue to cook, adding a little water if necessary, until soft. When the red pepper is soft remove the seeds, dice it finely and add it to the onions and pumpkin. Remove from the heat and add some fresh goat cheese and chopped fresh coriander (cilantro). Cut the poblano chillies in half and carefully scoop out the seeds. Lie the halves in an oven tray and fill them with the goat cheese mixture. Top them with grated cheese (something that melts easily) and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Roast in a moderate oven until the seeds are browning and the filling is hot.

Written by michelle picker

April 3, 2019 at 12:18 am

warm vegetable and quinoa salad

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Here’s a quick, delicious and satisfying meal.

Rinse some quinoa allowing approximately ½ a cup per person. In a medium saucepan bring some water to boil. Add the quinoa and cook until it still has some texture but is no longer crunchy. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables of your choice – I cooked leeks, pumpkin, parsnip, turnip and okra. If you use okra, wash and trim them and place them in some acidulated water before using. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil until hot then add the vegetables. If some vegetables are quicker to cook than others then you will have to add them in order of cooking time. Season the vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add some herbs – I used sprigs of thyme and fresh bay leaves. Cover and continue to cook over high heat, stirring the vegetables only occasionally so that they become a bit charred. When the quinoa is cooked place it in a strainer, rinse under cold water to cool and leave to drain. When the vegetables are ready put them in a serving bowl with the drained quinoa and some crumbled feta. Dress with lemon juice and more olive oil and toss well to combine.

Written by michelle picker

March 13, 2019 at 12:17 am

red-cooked whole chicken + mushroom and kangkong stir-fry

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This is a popular cooking method in China where it is used for all kinds of meats and hard-boiled eggs. Served either hot or cold, the remaining stock is reused as a master stock. Ingredients vary from cook to cook but usually include soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, rock sugar and whole spices such as star anise and black cardamom.

Place your chicken into a pot which is not too big. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, some large slices of ginger, a few cloves of garlic, 2 star anise, a black cardamom pod and some cassia bark (or a small cinnamon quill). I don’t usually add rock sugar. Fill the pot with cold water until the chicken is just covered and bring to a boil very slowly. Simmer, turning the chicken at least once, until it is cooked. You can tell when the chicken is cooked if the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh. If you have a meat thermometer it should read 74ºC (165ºF). Remove the chicken from the stock and drizzle with a little sesame oil before serving. Serve with steamed rice.

Here’s a lovely simple stir-fry to serve with the chicken.

Trim and slice a few king oyster mushrooms, wash and chop a bunch of kangkong (also known as water spinach or morning glory) and peel and lightly crush a clove of garlic. Place your wok over high heat and when hot, add some peanut oil. Fry the clove of garlic until just beginning to brown and discard it. Now add the oyster mushrooms and cook for a minute or two before adding the kangkong. Finally add a little salt, sugar and white pepper and toss well to combine.

Written by michelle picker

March 6, 2019 at 12:15 am

fennel and seafood salad

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Here in the southern hemisphere we recently celebrated the Summer Solstice. Our feast began with this salad, a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from the cookbook Ottolenghi, cooked by Fifi. It looked magnificent and tasted even better.

Trim the tops and bottoms of four fennel bulbs then slice them crosswise as thinly as you can. In a large bowl combine the sliced fennel with ½ a finely sliced red onion, the grated zest and juice of 1 lime2 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of chopped dill, 2 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 seeded and diced red chilli, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well and set aside. Prepare 8 large tiger prawns (shrimp) by removing their heads, shelling the body (leave the tail intact) and de-veining. Toss the prawns and 350g (12 oz) of cleaned baby squid in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Heat a heavy pan or griddle and cook the prawns and squid in batches until just cooked. Cut the cooked squid into rings and when the seafood has cooled add it to the salad bowl along with some tomato wedges and toss to combine. If you are not serving the salad immediately it will keep in the fridge for up to a day. To serve stir in 1 tablespoon of sumac and 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander (cilantro) and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Written by michelle picker

January 2, 2019 at 12:26 am

Posted in fish & seafood, vegetables

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christmas 2018

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Only four of us this hot Christmas day, so we decided to have a Chinese hot-pot. Cooking everything at the table is the ultimate slow food but very satisfying and delicious!

Our home-made stock was made with pork bones, chicken and ginger. Before serving we seasoned to taste with salt and added a black cardamom pod, star anise, black peppercorns and Sichuan peppercorns. To cook we had: prawn and ginger dumplings; shiitake, king oyster and enoki mushrooms; a variety of fish balls; prawns; beef; pork; fried beancurd and beancurd skins; Choi sum and Chinese broccoli; quail eggs; and mung bean noodles. For dipping we chose our ingredients from soy sauce; black rice vinegar; sesame oil; sesame paste; minced garlic; minced ginger, chopped coriander (cilantro); chopped spring onions; and finely sliced fresh chillies. And some chilli oil.

Written by michelle picker

December 26, 2018 at 12:43 am