Vegetarian cooking – Kimchi stir fry – a recipe

The other day, a very good friend and I were chatting about making dinner. She told me about a kimchi stew she learned about from Maangchi. The popular YouTuber has a video of the stew and I was fascinated by it. I love kimchi and the way my friend described it, I really wanted to try it.

So I was interested in making the stew, but I ran into a couple obstacles, mainly that I could find kimchi in my local shops. I went to a Waitrose in Gloucester Road, the Sainsbury’s Local near Kew Bridge, and the Co-Op in Chiswick Park. None of the places had kimchi, so I just bought some stir fry veg and made that, instead.

But I still was a bit obsessed with the kimchi stew, and the other day I went to the Sainsbury’s in Chiswick – the large one, and found kimchi – tiny jars of it, but whatever. So I decided to make a kimchi stir fry, instead of the stew (which I still plan on making)

So I know this recipe is not authentic and doesn’t exist in any kind of Korean recipe – this is not an attempt at an authentic recipe, but simply a stir fry of flavours and ingredients I like. This recipe is yet another in my long line of recipes that aren’t really recipes because you can make them with anything. Another thing is, that I Sandra Lee’d it a bit with some of the ingredients (sue me).

Ingredients (serves two – but very healthy portions)

  • a package of ramen noodles – I chose a hot, spicy ramen (keep the flavour packet)
  • Gochujang – a Korean chili paste – I used about a tablespoon, but be careful, it’s pretty spicy, so use to taste
  • a 215g of kimchi
  • Sriracha sauce
  • soy sauce
  • a bok choy, white part and green parts separated and chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped roughly
  • 2 red chilis chopped
  • a thumb-sized knob of ginger, chopped finely
  • A collection of veg for stir fry – I chose Sainsbury’s Hot & Spicy Stir fry (it came with white cabbage, carrot, green cabbage, red bell pepper, beansprouts, red onion, chilies
  • I package of firm tofu
  • sunflower oil (or any other oil that doesn’t have a strong flavour)
  • white pepper, to taste
  • green onion
  • coriander

The first thing I do is slice the tofu in large planks and fry in the oil, browning on both sides, before removing and draining on a paper towel.

After that, I add the white part of the bok choy, onion, and red chilis, ginger, and stir fry, before adding the chili paste, and cook over medium-high heat, constantly. Let the pan develop a fond, and sprinkle the soy sauce and sriracha and deglaze and mix and stir. Sprinkle the flavour packet and mix (I do it a bit at a time, because you may not need all of the packet)

I covered the pan and let the pan cook. In the meantime, I set a colander in the sink and poured hot, boiling water over the ramen noodles to soften them up.

I uncover the pan and add the kimchi with the brine and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any loose bits. Then I add the package of stir fry veg and the bok choy greens, and keep cooking, mixing continuously so that nothing burns. I periodically sprinkle more soy sauce and sriracha while cooking, because I like my stir fry very spicy (you may want to do less – that’s up to you)

Cook for about 15 ,20 minutes, until the veg has cooked and all of your veg is cooked through. Add the green onions and the tofu and stir carefully so that the tofu doesn’t break up too much. Sprinkle more soy sauce and sriracha and keep cooking (you may want to sprinkle some water, too) Finally, add some of the white pepper – it’s a strong, pungent, musty spice, so be careful not to add too much.

When serving, sprinkle some freshly chopped coriander. Oh, and enjoy.

Chicken and broccoli casserole

This recipe came out of me wanting to make a healthier version of mac n’ cheese. Macaroni and cheese is one of my favourite dishes, and as I did research on the Internet, I looked for healthier options that called for whole wheat pasta and less cheese. I thought about the kind of mac n’ cheese I like – Pret a Manger has a really good mac n’ cheese with cauliflower, and I thought about adding some kind of vegetable to my version. I liked the cauliflower of the Pret, but I prefer broccoli to cauliflower, so I chose that instead. I also had half a red bell pepper, so I chopped that up to include in the recipe.

One time I had something really amazing called lobster mac n’ cheese, and oh my god it was good. I don’t really like lobster on its own, but in a mac n’ cheese it was insane: the delicate meat nestled in the velvety sauce.

Oh, I forgot to mention how much I love that thick, gooey, silky sauce. That kind of viscous consistency can only be achieved by using Velveeta which is magic cheese food product that emulsifies beautifully. I live in the UK now, so Velveeta isn’t a thing here. They like cheese – mostly cheddar, in various degrees of sharpness, but I can’t find that familiar orange, yellow box with the familiar red letters.

So, back to the lobster thing. Since I’m not a billionaire, I opted out of boiling lobsters. Besides, cooking something alive would worry me to no end: I don’t want to re-live the scene from Annie Hall, as charming as that film is, so I decided to use chicken breasts which I poached.

The other thing is, now my kitchen is clean and the sink is empty of dishes. I wanted to do a one-pot recipe, or as close to one-pot as possible. That means I used the same sauce pan to boil the veg, the pasta, and poach the chicken. To amp up the flavour, I boiled the chopped bell pepper and broccoli until tender (but still al dente), then the chicken to create a stock, and finally the pasta, so that the pasta can absorb any of the flavours in the cooking liquid.

At the end of cooking my meal, it looked less like mac n’ cheese and more like a casserole, instead (which is what mac n’ cheese is, anyways) Mac n’ cheese has a white sauce, which adds cholesterol and fat, so I did away with that. I also used low fat cheese, and a little bit of it. As a result, the casserole was pretty good, but not the thick, luxurious mac n’ cheese I was aiming for, but that’s okay, it still worked.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 200 g of elbow macaroni (or any other small, tubular pasta)
  • 60 g of sharp cheddar, shredded – I used low-fat
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 300g of chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 60g of broccoli, diced
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 tbl of mustard – I like brown mustard
  • 1 tbl of soured cream
  • 1/3 cup of crushed potato crisps – I used slightly salted
  • Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200 C

So the first thing I did was boil some water in a small saucepan, and threw in the broccoli and red pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, so that the woody part of the broccoli is tender, but the veg is still vibrantly green. I fished the veg out and put in the chicken and poach until cooked through, 15 minutes. Afterwards, I fished the chicken out and diced into bite-sized pieces, and added the pasta and cook in the broth until the macaroni is tender, but al dente – about 6 minutes. Drain and leave aside.

Take the saucepan, rince it out with cold water and dry out and return the pasta to the pan. Add the veg, the chicken, and the cheese and stir until well-combined. Add the chicken soup, the sour cream and stir – it’ll look like the innards of a pot pie. Spoon in the mustard and mix to blend.

Oil a small-ish casserole with your olive oil (you can use butter – it tasted better with butter, but olive oil is healthier – do want you want, I’m not the police) Pour your gloppy mixture into the casserole and smooth the top with a spoon. Then take the potato crisp and crush and sprinkle over the top of your casserole until you cover the whole surface in a thin layer of potato crisps crumbs. If you have any chips left over, shove them into your maw, while you stand over the sink, looking out the window of your kitchen.

Put your casserole on the middle rack and bake for about 20, 25 minutes. I keep an eye out to make sure the crisps don’t burn – my oven has a glass door so I can keep an eye on it. Once it’s 20, 25 minutes, and the crisps are browned and the sauces is bubbly, pull out and leave it out to rest for about 10 minutes. Then spoon some – not just some, but a lot – really, you’re not meant to be restraint when eating this, you’re supposed to devour this. Oh, and enjoy.

 

Bakes fusilli with roasted vegetables and sausage

Baking pasta is something I don’t do very often, but I’ve been making tray bakes a lot lately. Tray bakes are very popular in England and they’re great to make – it’s essentially a one-pot dinner: you throw everything on a baking tray, throw it into a hot oven, and you’re good to go. I’m able to wash dishes while I’m waiting for the food to cook.

This recipe isn’t a “proper” recipe in that it doesn’t really matter what you put it in. I made a winter veg stew the other day, so I had half a turnip and half a celeriac in my fridge that needed eating. I also had half a red onion from a curry I made earlier in the week and I discovered a courgette that was on the borderline of just going off, so I wanted to use that, as well.

This recipe is very easy to make – the ingredients I’m including aren’t obligatory. You put what you want to.

Ingredients (for serving two people):

  • 175 g of pasta – I used whole wheat fusilli
  • 1/2 courgette, chopped in large chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, chopped
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 turnip, diced
  • 1/2 celaraic, diced
  • 3 links of fresh sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices of Emmental cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

So, the first thing I did was take the turnip and celaraic and tossed it with some olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I poured the root veg onto a baking tray in a single layer and put the tray into an oven, heated at 220 degrees.

While the root veg was baking, I prepared the rest of the vegetables. After 10 minutes, pull the tray out and and add the vegetables and the can of tomatoes, mix and spread on the tray as flat as possible.

I then took the sausage meat and broke it in tiny, bite-size pieces, and place on top of the veg.

Add the tray back into the oven and bake until the meat is cooked, another 15, 20 minutes.

While the tray was cooking, boil water for pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, but shave off about two minutes.

Once the sausage is cooked, carefully pull the tray out and set it on your counter. Add the parmesan and mix – the mixture might get a bit sticky and dray – I added a couple tablespoons of cooking water to loosen it a bit. Flatten the food again.

Once the pasta is done, remove from the heat and drain and add to the tray and mix until it’s all well combined. Place the Emmental cheese slices and bake until the cheese is melted, bubbled, and browned.

Once it’s done, remove from the oven and let it sit for a moment before you cut into it. Serve. Oh and enjoy.