I went looking for something light-but-exciting for dinner on our first night back after eating ourselves to death in France. Little did I know I’d found the world’s greatest soup on epicurious – from Self no less. It’s fresh, it’s light, it’s spicy, and it’s so simple it barely feels like cooking.
I made a few little modifications to the printed recipe, and one major change: in a very half-assed way, I made my own chicken stock. Don’t let this put you off! All I did was put 3 frozen chicken leg and thigh bones in about a liter of water, brought it slowly up to a boil and tossed in some chinese five spice (a teaspoon or two) and some chinese black vinegar (a tablespoon or two). Simmer away for an hour or so, or however long you have, strain, and voila!
As the head notes to the original recipe stated, don’t be frightened by the long list of ingredients. I’m a slow chopper, and this took less than 10 minutes of prep. Also, while I followed the recipe and added chicken pieces, I won’t next time. The soup just didn’t need the extra expense or dead animal.
After that, here’s what you need:
- 1.5 liters cooking liquid (I just added water to my stock)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin (the recipe called for brown sugar but I didn’t have any)
- 1 tbsp of sricha or other asian hot sauce
- Juice of two juicy limes
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced (choose your thumb size based on your affection for ginger)
- 1-2 clove garlic, minced
- 3/4 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut in thin 3-inch-long strips
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 sliced chestnut mushrooms (slice them big if you want to pick them out before eating, like us)
- 1 cup snap peas
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
- handful chopped cilantro
Ok, this is really easy now. Put your cooking liquid into a big pot with your soy sauce, mirin (or sugar), sricha, lime juice, ginger and garlic and boil 5-10 minutes.
If you’re using chicken, toss the pieces in the 3 tbsp corn starch, and add it and the mushrooms to the pot. Simmer fo 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, add red peppers, cilantro and snap peas, and let sit for 3 minutes.
I know, I know. I’m hardly divulging a state secret with this post. But the fiesta of barbecued meat we enjoyed Sunday at Whitechapel’s famous Tayyab’s was too good to let pass without a mention. I’ve only ever gone with a big group and just ordered tons of the grilled meat starters for the table (and maybe some samosas and naan… because a balanced diet is important, you know).
Tayyabs grilled meat. By Flickr user su-lin (Creative Commons licence)
It’s pretty amazing – particularly the lamb chops – and all for a bargain 8 quid a head (it’s a BYO).
My top tip – wear clothes that were due for the laundry anyway, because you will reek of grilled meat after the meal.
Beans on toast: a hallmark of sad British cooking. Also, delicious (see: New Yorker cartoon). It’s a staple of our Sunday brunches (chile garlic sausage, beans on toast with malt vinegar and tabasco, mediocre coffee). Beans + carb = yum, so why not baked beans and polenta?
Sorry, I didn't remember the camera until a few bites in
Now, a little back story. In the past year I have developed a fear of polenta. I have absolutely no idea why. We’ve had a package of it in the cupboard for months and months, and I never knew what to do with it. My protein tends to the Asian, and it always struck me as an odd accompaniment to food involving soy sauce. But one weekend morning I was feeling so damn chipper (the sun was shining, it does powerful things to me) I thought I’d give it a go.
Baked beans and polenta? It was ok. The beans were reduced salt and sugar – any sweeter and I don’t think it would have worked at all. But the polenta itself was creamy and satisfying – and a treat fried later in the afternoon. And I was on to something with this bean and polenta combo. All week I pondered a reprise. I googled black beans and polenta, and kept coming back to a casserole that involves ‘polenta rounds’. What in the world is a polenta round? Undettered at around 5 last Saturday I just gave up and went my own way: polenta and black beans with broccoli rabe on the side.
Oh my god it was good. And meat-free! And how awesome is it that black beans smell so meaty?
by Flickr user thebittenword.com (Creative Commons license)
I love rocket (or arugula, to you Americans out there). It’s my favourite salad base apart from baby spinach, and I don’t even need to add very many other ingredients. Honestly, I’ll happily eat rocket with just a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.
I’m contemplating growing some this summer…I have a very brown thumb, but I keep hearing it’s quite easy.
by Flickr user mjgfoster (Creative Commons license)
Of all the food-related tragedies of not living in LA, perhaps the most tragic is life without pupusas. (For those curious, the most tragic non-food-related tragedy is life without sunshine. But that’s a topic for a whole other blog.)
What makes this even sadder is that I didn’t discover the magic of pupusas until after I left LA. How unfair is that?
Last week, LAist rubbed salt in the wound with a feature on pupusas, describing them thusly: ” It tastes like the result of an unsweetened pancake mating with a quesadilla.” Which probably doesn’t sound like the best thing in the world, but it is.
My experience of LA pupuserias is extremely limited, but I heartily recommend the stall at the Hollywood farmers market for a tasty start to a Sunday.
That’s my homesickness for the day. Now back to my coronation chicken sandwich.
Ok pig, you win. I’ve eaten so much of you this week, I almost want to take a break from meat. Which I don’t think has ever happened to me before.
But notice I said ‘almost’.
Ditching supermarket meat means buying the week’s protein at the farmers’ market on Saturday, and I couldn’t really let the last two, beautiful [read: hideously expensive] chicken breasts risk rotting in the fridge. But I needed something light. So last night’s dinner was the new family favorite: Miso chicken, Corn and Edamame Salad and brown rice.
I don’t know what else to say other than stop what you are doing and go make this right now. It’s easy, it’s relatively quick, it’s absolutely delicious and – the real shocker – it’s actually healthy. Not just not too terrible for you, but it has honest to god health giving properties like large quantities of essential vitamins. I know, normal people probably don’t find that last point so earth shattering.
Plus, leftovers mean only one meat-free day before market day comes around again. Hooray!
Every now and then I realize that recipes exist for a reason: sometimes they’re right! I’ve always ignored directions to use a heavy pan when cooking because I never had a heavy pan. But I just made beans in my lovely new casserole dish, and it took half the time! I’m very excited! Other people probably know this already, but, well, I’m impressed.
(For the record, I don’t think it was the cooking that made the difference, but that the quick soak was actually effective. But who knows, maybe it is a magical pan.)
I visited Akari, my local Japanese restaurant on Essex Road, again on Saturday, and it was another fabulous meal. The menu does include sushi and sashimi, but it’s predominately other kinds of Japanese food…and it ranges from good to fantastic. The teriyaki salmon was particularly outstanding this time.
Best of all, it’s incredibly reasonably priced…you can have dinner with drinks for well under £25 a head (though we tend to overdo it).