Category Archives: Pasta, noodles

Baked Pasta with Aubergine, Eggs and Anchovies

bakedpastapI rarely eat pasta, almost never bake it and definitely never switch on the oven it when it’s 33°C outside! Yet, today something made me cook pasta, patiently simmer a sauce with vegetables, boil eggs and prepare a dish which turned out perfect for such a hot summery day. I didn’t follow any recipe, but simply opened my cupboards and improvised, adding this and that. I’m really proud to say I don’t hesitate to post this recipe because I’d love to share it with all of you (with a special dedication to anchovy lovers). It was extraordinary, and even more summery, served with peperoncini sott’olio I made yesterday after MJ, my blogging friend (MJ’s Kitchen) and fellow chilli addict reminded me of them:

Peperoncini sott'olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Peperoncini sott’olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

TIPS: You can use any vegetables you like or simply have in the fridge, but I finally found aubergine the best suited for this dish.

Obviously, if you don’t like anchovies, skip them or add cut up ham for example.

You can use any easily melting Italian cheese here; smoked scamorza or smoked provola are my favourite (try to find those which are really smoked, i.e. don’t contain “smoke aroma” in the ingredients list).

If you don’t have or don’t want to make peperoncini sott’olio (above), this dish would be delicious with a splash of chilli oil.

Preparation: about 1h30 (but it’s definitely worth it!)

Ingredients (serves four):

750 ml tomato passata or tinned chopped tomatoes or fresh skinned tomatoes simmered until they become a thick sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 big garlic cloves, chopped

1 big aubergine or 1 small courgette+1 small aubergine, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small sweet pepper (bell pepper or long red pepper), cut into bite-sized pieces

3 hard-boiled eggs

150 g mozzarella, smoked scamorza or smoked provola (or any other melting Italian cheese)

100 g canned anchovies

3 tablespoons capers

salt, pepper, thyme

(grated pecorino or parmezan)

fresh basil

Heat the olive oil.

Fry the garlic for one minute.

Add the sweet pepper and the aubergine (if you use courgette, add it raw to the dish just before baking).

Stir-fry for several minutes.

Add the thyme and 1/2 of the tomato sauce/chopped tomatoes.

Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, add salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In the meantime cook short pasta, taking it out of the water 3 minutes before the time indicated  on the package.

In a baking dish place a layer of pasta, cover with vegetables cooked in tomato sauce.

Add courgettes, if using.

Add the remaining tomato sauce.

Cover with half slices of the eggs, capers, chunks of cheese and grate some pecorino/parmezan on top (if using).

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and slightly golden.

Just before serving sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and torn basil leaves.

Serve with pepperoncini sott’olio, if you have them.

Kimchi Stew with Chicken, Poached Egg and Konnyaku Noodles

kimchi_konnyaku_Just like every year when I go on my Japan holidays, I promised myself to keep on blogging from my hotel room and… once more somehow it didn’t work. I hope you will excuse me this long absence here and from my friends’ blogs. The trip was, as always, very enriching (especially since this time I made a short stop in Seoul too!), so I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of most recent food inspirations and discoveries in the future.

This loose interpretation of a kimchi soup is a delicious, filling but very light – or even diet! – dish I made several times before my holidays. It is not a traditional Korean recipe (especially since it contains Japanese products…), but in my opinion it shows very well the complexity matured old kimchi adds to hot dishes. In fact, the flavours are so rich, there is no need to have stock or even to think of any additional seasoning. Slightly spicy, slightly salty, tangy… the result is always perfect and the preparation effortless. Whether you add the konyaku (aka “zero calorie”) noodles or any other kind of noodles, the stew is delicious, warming and light. In short, perfect for cold days, especially when one isn’t keen on speding hours in the kitchen. Now that I’m back I sincerely regret having no more kimchi in the fridge…

If you have never heard about konnyaku (or shirataki) noodles, they are made from konjac (Amorphophallus konjac, also called devil’s tongue) by drying its corm, which is then reduced to flour and mixed with water to obtain a gelatinous substance, formed into noodles, blocks, “gnocchi”, ball-shaped products… all sold in plastic bags filled with water (although konnyaku powder also exists and can be added to drinks). Konnyaku products are all very rich in fiber and help digestion (they are called “broom for the stomach”… so don’t exaggerate and don’t have them for every single meal!). Due to their high water content konnyaku is known as “zero calorie”. All the derived products have become famous outside of Japan (especially among people who want to lose weight) and nowadays can be found in many “standard” shops too, but watch out: some have tofu, vegetable extracts or other ingredients added which might change their nutritional values. In this stew I have used udon-shaped konnyaku noodles, i.e. thicker and chewier (my favourite of all the konnyaku products)and you can perfectly replace them with normal udon or any noodles of your choice.

TIPS: If you have never used konnyaku products, take them out of their bag and rinse well. (Don’t be put off by the fishy smell. It will disappear.) Put the noodles (or any other konnyaku product) into a pan of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Rinse well under cold water and put aside. Now they are ready to be added to your stew or stir-fry.

The poached egg is not an obligatory item here of course, but as a big egg lover I was thrilled to discover dolsot (the Korean pot you see above) in which I can cook my soup, poach my egg and then bring to the table. In short, if you want the egg white to set in your soup, you will need either dolsot or a Japanese nabe dish or a small cast iron casserole/dutch oven (make sure it can be safely used on the stovetop, not only in the oven!).

If you don’t have any of these, I advise making the soup in a normal pan and poaching the egg in another one (or frying it), then adding it to the serving bowl. If you don’t mind the egg white being still wobbly and transparent, you can break the egg to your bowl just before serving.

You don’t have to stir-fry the chicken pieces, but I think it improves flavours of both the soup and the chicken meat.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1 teaspoon oil

1/2 small chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small onion or shallot, sliced

3-4 heaped tablespoons of old (very sour) kimchi, cut into pieces

some kimchi juice (depends on how hot you want your stew)

500 ml – 750 ml (about 2-3 cups) hot water

1/2 portion of konnyaku noodles, rinsed and parboiled (see the TIPS above) or a whole package if you manage to eat it

1/3 courgette, 1/2 small sweet pepper or any vegetables of your choice, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 egg

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

green onions, chives or edible chrysanthemum leaves (I used these here)

Heat the oil in your bowl or casserole.

Stir-fry the chicken pieces and the onion slices at medium heat until the chicken is half cooked.

Lower the heat and add the kimchi.

Stir fry for a minute.

Add the water and the noodles and let the soup simmer for ten minutes.

(TIP: If you want your vegetables soft, you can add them now, but if you want them to remain crunchy, add them at the same time you break the egg into the dish).

Afterwards, add the vegetables, make a “nest” in the middle of the dish and delicately break an egg into it.

Cover with a lid and cook until the egg white is half-set (it will continue cooking, so if you want your yolk to remain runny, take the dish off the stovetop at this stage).

Sprinkle with chives, green onion or edible chrysanthemum leaves and add a teasponful of sesame oil just before serving.

I have also sprinkled some furikake (Japanese rice topping) on top. You can use freshly ground black pepper instead or powdered chilli or shichimi togarashi (Japanese spicy seasoning).

Udon and Spring Onion Burger

udonburgerpMost of you probably regularly eat noodles and ground meat (not necessarily together), but would you ever think of combining them in a burger patty? I certainly wouldn’t and was sincerely surprised that such a crazy idea can yield an amazingly luscious burger. A huge amount of green onions – though less surprising – might also contribute to the final taste results, but in my opinion, the presence of chopped udon noodles is what makes the difference.

For those who have never heard of udon, it’s thick wheat flour variety of Japanese noodles, usually eaten in light soups. I am particularly fond of their chewy, slightly bouncy texture and always have a package in stock, but I would have never even dreamt of including them into a burger. Actually, I stumbled upon this recipe while looking for new ideas to use the abundance of Japanese green onions growing on my balcony. My long search led me as far as Kawaga prefecture’s official website and their filmed recipes.

Kagawa is apparenty famous for its udon (sanuki udon, to be precise) and its inhabitants are said to be addicted to these noodles (if you saw the film “Udon”, you know what I mean…). I have no doubts that only big passion for udon could have led to the creation of such an unusual idea. Ms Toshiko Tsukuda, from Kagawa prefecture’s research council group, presented this recipe (click here), aimed at using local green onion, under the name of (roughly translated, please correct me, if I’m wrong) “grilled green onion and udon surprise” (びっくりネギ焼きうどん). I was completely blown away by the idea of chopped udon in burger patties (not to mention being able to use a huge bunch of my green onions), so I bought the beef and prepared them as soon as possible. The burgers were incredibly juicy, surprisingly light and I particularly appreciated a slightly chewy typical udon “touch”.

As it often happens, I have modified this recipe already at the first cooking session. I changed the ingredients’ ratio (mainly increasing the beef amount), added crushed garlic clove and ground cumin to spice up the beef a bit and I also decided to glaze the burgers with teriyaki sauce (or rather my own, less sweet version of it). For the original recipe, check Kagawa Prefecture’s official website (unfortunately I haven’t found an English version, the video is in Japanese only, I think). (UPDATE: Thanks to Hiroyuki, I have found out this recipe is almost identical to Udon Gyoza, the specialty of Takatsuki).

TIPS: The patties are quite delicate, but surprisingly, they keep well the shape, if you form a ball in your hand, roll it a bit to make sure the ingredients “stick” and then slightly flatten it. Of course they should be turned very carefully.

If you use the “fresh” precooked udon (not the dried noodles), you don’t need to warm it or boil before chopping and including into the patty. Just unpack it and chop.

My teriyaki glaze is only slightly sweet (compared to the standard teriyaki glaze), so add more mirin and/or sugar if you want it typically sweet.

You can use any green onions or chives you have. I find Japanese green onions more delicate than Western ones.

Preparation: about 30 – 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 3):

200g (about 7 oz) cooked udon or “fresh”, precooked udon: you don’t need to cook this one here; just take it out of the package and chop it

200 g (about 7 oz) ground beef

a big bunch of chopped spring onion or chives (the volume equal to udon’s volume)

salt, pepper (I have added 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper)

ground cumin (I have added 1/2 teaspoon)

1 crushed garlic clove

1 egg

oil

Teriyaki glaze:

6 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking sake)

Chop the udon as finely as possible (but don’t make a paste out of it!).

In a bowl combine the chopped udon, the spring onion/chives, the beef, the egg, salt, pepper, cumin and garlic.

Mix well with your hand or with a fork.

Put aside for ten minutes.

Heat the oil in a pan or heat a grill.

Form patties (beware: they are delicate and cannot be as flat as beef-only patties).

Fry or grill the burgers as much as you prefer (even completely cooked inside they were still juicy though). I fry them, putting a lid over the pan, so that the upper part is slightly cooked before I flip them (this way they are well cooked inside – I don’t like rare burgers – but not dry). Of course if you want them rare inside, don’t cover the pan.

In the meantime warm the teriyaki glaze in a small pan and make it boil until it thickens (watch the pan because it burns easily).

Before serving, brush the sauce over each burger.

Serve immediately.

Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken

asp_springrollsp I hope you are not bored with my asparagus posts yet because… here is my most recent discovery! I have already tested – and with no regrets – asparagus as a filling in  maki sushi, then in filo rolls… now the time has come for spring rolls! Asparagus, the spring vegetable par excellence, thoroughly justifies the name of these snacks. I am glad to add them to my growing list of asparagus dishes and at the same time to my collection of spring rolls, which will once more become a staple during approaching hot days. I strongly recommend these to all the asparagus lovers.

If you don’t like asparagus, here are some other spring roll filling ideas:

Surimi and Avocado Spring Rolls

Surimi and Avocado Spring Rolls

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Soba Noodles and Cucumber Spring Rolls

Soba Noodles and Cucumber Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast, Carrot and Mint

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast, Carrot and Mint

If you look for other asparagus dish ideas, you might like some of these:
Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Asparagus Tempura

Asparagus Tempura

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

TIPS: I have added here mung bean sprouts because I like them and buy constantly, but since the asparagus is already crunchy, you can skip them and add more of other ingredients instead.

These rolls can be served with any sauce of your choice (or without any sauce too!), but I particularly liked it with a mixture of soy sauce, chilli oil and vinegar (my ratio is usually 3:1:1). They were also delicious with the sesame salad dressing I have posted here. (The one you see above is a Vietnamese sweet, sour and hot sauce, but finally I didn’t find it the best for the asparagus).

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (8 rolls):

8 (22 cm or 8 3/4 in diameter) rice paper sheets

1 x 40 g (about 1,4 oz) package of glass/cellophane (mung bean) noodles

8 rather big lettuce leaves (or the equivalent of other green leaves) 

two small handfuls of washed fresh mung bean sprouts or more glass noodles/more asparagus

12 green asparagus spears, blanched and still crunchy (the lower hard 1/3 – 1/4 part trimmed)

1 big baked, grilled, boiled or steamed chicken breast

(mayonnaise)

(chili paste or sauce)

Put the glass noodles into a bowl.

Cover with boiling water and soak them about ten minutes until they soften and become limp.

Drain them with cold water.

Cut the asparagus into halves or smaller portions, so that they are as long as your spring rolls will be.

Cut the chicken breast in two horizontally and then into thin strips.

Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.

Divide the lettuce leaves, the chicken breast, the asparagus spears, the glass noodles (and the mung bean sprouts if you use them) into ten equal portions.

Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them. As soon as the sheet softens (after about ten – twenty seconds), put it onto a big chopping board.

Place first the lettuce leaf in the middle, horizontally (at the edge which is closest to you) the asparagus, a piece of chicken breast, mayonnaise, mung bean sprouts and chili paste if you choose to do so.

Roll tightly starting from the edge which is closest to you.

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally with the sesame paste dressing/dip or with a mixture of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.

If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film because they dry out very quickly.

Ramen with Cauliflower

cauli_ramenpRamen (the famous Japanese huge bowl of noodles and toppings in a stock) is such a particularly filling dish, I gradually got used to cutting down the noodle portion by half and replacing it with vegetables. Courgette, thanks to its neutral taste and short cooking time, has always been my favourite. Cauliflower is not something I think of when cooking Japanese, but I have recently discovered that when slightly blanched, it pairs very well with my ramen and is an excellent light replacement for the left half package of noodles.

As I have already mentioned here, ramen soup is all about stock (by the way, if you are a ramen fan and don’t know the film Tampopo yet, you must absolutely see it!). Ramen can be made with different stocks, based on various ingredients and these are usually more important to big amateurs than the toppings or other ingredients added just before serving. Thanks to Nancy Hachisu and her Japanese Farm Food I discovered a perfect homemade ramen based on baked chicken bones and vegetables. I like it so much, I sometimes prepare it two weeks in a row (which means having several ramens a week). It has a bold, deep taste but is not heavy or high-calorie (if you skim the fat), so it can be enjoyed even by those who watch their waistline (unlike, for example, tonkotsu, the very heavy and thick pork bone stock I couldn’t prepare regularly, even though I like it and will always order it in Japan). For me it’s particularly convenient since I often buy a whole chicken and then cut it up on my own, so the chicken carcass I am left with is ideal for this type of home ramen stock. Please check my (slightly modified) recipe explained in details here and read the original one in Nancy Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food.

TIPS:

I have never liked mushy cauliflower and here only quickly blanched one is used (it must still be crunchy). Even if you prefer mushy cauliflower, its flavours will get stronger, changing the whole ramen, so I strongly advise against it. Do not cook the raw cauliflower in the ramen stock. It will dominate the taste of the whole dish even more.

I usually break dry noodles portion in two and use only half (a whole portion is too much for me), but of course feel free to use the whole portion.

Below is a list of my favourite toppings, some being obviously not traditional at all (I like adding frozen peas for example). I am crazy for yuzu koshou (see the super easy recipe here) with its slight bitterness, but many people dislike it, so taste it first (it will change the taste of the whole soup). I also like adding soy sauce before serving ramen. Check Wikipedia if you want to read the list of strictly Japanese toppings.

Strained stock will keep for at least four days in the coldest part of the fridge (I have never tested a longer period).

Preparation: (if you already have the stock ready) 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 – 2 portions of dry Japanese noodles (my favourite are thin, very curly yellowish wheat noodles)

soy sauce (I use low-sodium to have more soy sauce taste but not too much salt)

blanched crunchy (not mushy!) cauliflower

Some of my favourite toppings (I usually don’t put them all at the same time):

half-boiled egg (hard-boiled is ok too)

sliced roast meat (usually pork is used, but I often put some roast or grilled chicken too; here I have used chicken breast grilled in pieces)

chopped spring onions or chives

crunchy sediments from thick Japanese chilli and and garlic oil taberu rayu (see the recipe here) or simply chilli oil

yuzu koshou (chilli and yuzu peel paste, see the recipe here or a Westernised lime and chilli paste)

shichimi togarashi (Japanese hot seasoning; you can see it on the egg halves)

soy bean or mung bean sprouts

frozen green peas

Reheat the stock. Add soy sauce to taste.

Break the dry noodles portion in two (if you want to make a bigger, more filling ramen, use two portions).

In the meantime boil some water and put ramen noodles into it.

Cover and wait about 10 minutes until they soften (I prefer them slightly al dente but feel free to leave them for longer).

In each bowl put small pieces of blanches cauliflower, a 1/2 portion (or whole portion) of noodles and pour the stock over them.

Add the toppings: sprouts, halved egg, roasted meat, chives, chili oil… Serve very hot!