Category Archives: European (vaguely)

Chinese Cabbage Salad with Corn and Pickled Cucumber

When I was a teenager this simple salad was all the rage. I guess its popularity was first of all due to the new vegetable: Chinese/Napa cabbage. Even avowed lettuce haters liked its crunchiness, neutral sweetish taste and every home cook appreciated its long fridge life, its all-year availability, not to mention its low price. Some prepared this salad with vinaigrette, some with mayonnaise but my favourite sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise and yogurt with crushed fresh garlic. Though I prepare it all year round, I think of it as a typical winter salad: refreshing and light, but still quite filling.

After so many years I still love this salad and still wonder why the taste is so good because the ingredients are quite ordinary. The only explanation is a perfect combination of different flavours and textures: it’s crunchy (cabbage), sweet (corn), sour (pickled cucumber), with a slight pungency from the onion and the garlic and a creamy mayonnaise sauce finish. I always make sure to grind lots of black pepper for an awakening kick (actually I cannot imagine it without big amounts of pepper, no matter how weird it sounds…).

TIPS: If you want to transform this salad into a full meal, add some proteins such as cubes of hard cheese, hard-boiled eggs, ham, chicken breast or canned tuna.

I think salt-brined cucumbers are the best here, but if you cannot find them (they can be found in Polish, Russian or Ukrainian grocery shops, but I also find them in German organic shops), you can take the more international vinegared pickled cucumbers or even small cornichons. Do not use cucumbers pickled in a very sweet brine though. They must taste sour and sharp.

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves four as a side dish or two as a main course, if protein added (see TIPS above)):

1 small Chinese/Napa cabbage (bu small I mean weighing 1/2 kilo or about 1 lb)

1x 250 g (about oz) can of corn (or the equivalent of frozen/fresh and cooked for 5 minutes)

3 medium salt-brined or vinegar-pickled cucumbers

1 medium red onion (you can also use spring onion, but red onion looks nicer, I think)

mayonnaise or mayonnaise+yogurt (I use approx. 125 ml/ 1/2 cup of dressing)

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

salt, pepper

Prepare the sauce with crushed garlic, salt, pepper, mayonnaise and yogurt (if using).

Chop the cabbage, slice finely the onion, cut up the cucumbers, drain and rinse the corn.

Give the salad a good stir and refrigerate.

If you don’t add the sauce immediately, the cut up vegetables will keep for several days (the sauce in a separate container too). It’s best to add the sauce one or two hours before serving; thus the flavours will mix better but don’t add the sauce as early as one day before.

Fresh Corn Pancake with Chives and Bacon

Fresh corn is the only vegetable I used to eat always in the same way: whole cobs, grilled or boiled, then salted and smothered with butter. Then, two days ago, I was watching a video from 3分クッキング (3-minute cooking), a famous Japanese food program and decided to prepare a  pancake they presented. To be frank, I didn’t have high expectations and was simply glad to try something new with fresh corn, but the first bite was so surprisingly delicious, I still keep on wondering how something so simple could taste so good.

I have adapted the recipe to my taste (for example smoked bacon instead of raw pork belly is my obligatory change in most Japanese recipes) and will probably tweak this recipe often in the future. As long as you keep fresh corn and chives or green onions, you can change many things here: if you don’t have garlic chives, use normal chives or green onion and crushed garlic clove instead; you can put on top whatever you want (any fresh seasonal herb you like eating raw, any spicy sauce or seasoning…), etc.. If you can read and understand Japanese, 3分クッキング is a wonderful huge source of easy home recipes with videos changing every week (but written recipes stay forever).

UPDATE: For those who might be interested, a Japanese friend has told me this type of pancake (called “chijimi” チジミ) is considered by the Japanese as Korean-style and is usually inspired by Korean green onion thin pancakes (this one, especially in the original recipe, did contain a big amount of garlic chives, which are quite close to green onion).

TIP: In the original recipe “tare” (here a mixture of water, soy sauce and Korean chilli paste “gochujang”) is brushed on top of the pancake before the mayonnaise is added. I preferred my bacon to stay dry and crips (not moist), so I skipped it and added taberu rayu (thick chilli oil with sediments) instead. It worked perfectly, but it’s up to you which sauce you prefer.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1 medium or big fresh corn cob

a big handful of chopped garlic chives or normal chives/green onion tops+1 crushed garlic clove

6 thin slices of smoked streaky bacon, cut each in 3-4 pieces

mayonnaise (I have used Japanese Kewpie low-fat ; I strongly recommend it because it’s really delicious, especially compared to other light versions)

oil for frying

chopped shiso leaves or chives or any other fresh herb you like

tare (equal amounts of soy sauce, water and Korean gochujang paste) or chilli oil, preferably with sediments (I have used my homemade Japanese taberu rayu), sriracha or any spicy sauce of your choice

Batter:

6 heaped tablespoons wheat flour

3 heaped tablespoons potato flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

100 ml chicken stock (or chicken stock in powder/cube dissolved in water)

1 egg

 

Cut the corn cob horizontally in half, place each half onto a chopping board and cut off the corn, starting from the top (you can also do it with a whole cob, but I found it more difficult).

Put the fresh corn into a bowl, add all the batter ingredients and mix well.

The batter should be like thick pancake batter, so if you think it’s too watery, add some more flour and if it’s too thick, add more stock or water.

Heat oil in a pan, spread a thin layer of the pancake batter (it shouldn’t be more than 1 cm thick), cover with pieces of bacon and cover.

Let it cook at medium heat for five minutes.

Lift the pancake and add about 1/2 teaspoon oil, move the pancake around the pan (it will maje the further frying easier) and flip it. Fry it for 5 more minutes until the bacon becomes crisp.

Place the pancake on a plate (of course bacon side up). If using tare (see the TIP), brush it over the pancake. Then add the mayonnaise, and (if using) chilli oil or another spicy sauce and finally chopped herbs.

Do the same with the remaining batter.

My Favourite Savoury Summer Preserves

Pickled Sweet Pepprs

I don’t eat jams and other sweet preserves, so my even though for most people preserving means mainly making jams, my pantry has become almost 100% savoury with most of the jars filled with chilli pepper-based jellies, sauces, pickles and other more or less fiery products. Preserving season has practically started here (I’ve just made my first jars of chilli jelly!), so I thought I’d share with you my favourite preserves, those I cannot imagine skipping even for a single year. 

Some of them can only be kept in the fridge, some can be put into jars and kept for at least a year in your pantry. If you are afraid of long-term preserving (though I must assure you I’ve literally lived all my life on home preserves and never ever got even a slight stomach ache!), all the below long-term recipes can also be made as “fridge” preserves and kept for several months. If the hot water bath process (which I find necessary in long-term savoury preserves) seems too fussy and too long, I assure you, it lasts only 10-15 minutes, depending on the jar’s size, and is really easy. 

I hope you will find some of the below ideas useful or inspiring. Happy preserving!

TIPS: If you cannot handle very hot chilli varieties, choose the mildest ones. I keep on getting furious because from time to time I buy at the same shop chillies labelled as hot while they are not even medium-hot, so I know such things exist…

If you live in Europe and your country doesn’t produce chillies, I strongly suggest looking for Turkish grocery shops and Turkish stalls at farmers markets. They usually have several varieties of chillies (also some which are barely hot) and they will be fresher than those imported from other continents.

Short-term or Fridge-Only Preserves

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

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

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

 

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Salt Brine Pickled Chilli

Long-term/ Pantry Preserves

 

Pickled Dill Cucumbers

Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Chilli Jelly

Chilli Jelly

Habanero and Oil Paste

Habanero and Oil Paste (Only for Brave Chilli Lovers!)

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Pickled Sweet Peppers

Quick Chilli Pickle in Reused Olive Brine

When I met MJ and started reading the wonderful MJ’s Kitchen I discovered a whole new world of exotic dishes, ingredients and techniques. We share a huge love for chilli (or chile, as MJ would say) in all its forms, but her ways of cooking and using it are usually completely new to me. MJ might be surprised but I always think about her whenever I open a jar of olives. In fact, until I met MJ I would simply discard the olive brine from an empty jar, (unless my husband hasn’t drunk it!), but I’ve seen MJ use olive brine in so many creative ways, it started to make me think it’s totally wrong to throw it away.

One day I thought I’d recycle this brine and try making quick chilli pickles. The result was so good, I now always make sure I have two or three chillies in the fridge whenever I open a jar of olives. Such quickly pickled chilli slices are still crunchy, only lightly altered in taste and texture and they make an excellent snack or an addition to salads and sandwiches. If, like my husband, you like drinking olive brine, you can still drink it after you’ve finished this “secondary” pickle, but beware, the brine will be even hotter than the chilli. Now olive brine makes me think even more about MJ because I know as soon as I finish the olives, I’ll throw some chillies into the same jar and have a delicious hot snack I’m sure she would enjoy. Thank you so much, dear MJ, for your constant inspiration!

If you have just opened a jar of vinegar-pickled vegetables (cucumbers for example), once you have finished it, you can try the same method to make quick secondary cucumber pickles with leftover vinegar pickling brine:

Cucumber Pickled in Reused Vinegar Brine

TIPS: This quick recycled brine pickling idea is intended for olives pickled in salt brine (salt and water), not preserved in oil or with addition of oil (you might try it too, but I don’t guarantee the results).

The photo you see above was made at the moment I started pickling. The red chilli colour won’t change but the green chilli slices will soon turn olive green, so don’t worry, it’s normal.

Some olives are sold in plastic pouches. Once you have finished the olives, transfer the brine into a glass jar and then  pickle the chillies (don’t reuse the plastic pouch for that). Olives might be sold also in metal cans, but I’ve never tried pickling in the leftover brine from such olives. I’m worried it might take a metallic taste… If you ever intend to do it, make sure you don’t reuse the same can (anyway, I’m sure most of you know, metal cans should be emptied as soon as they are open, so you should transfer the olives with their brine into a ceramic or glass container as soon as you open them).

Obviously, if you don’t like fiery food and cannot handle chillies, you can pickle sweet peppers in the same way.

If your pickled chilli has developed a mould on top, throw it away and don’t be put off by this first experience. I have made these reused brine pickles at least dozen of times, always in the same way and once they developed mould, I have no idea why (it might have been some dirt on the chillies or a fork which had touched some other food product and then used to retrieve olives from this brine…).

Preparation: 2-3 days

Ingredients:

a jar with brine from pickled olives (you can reuse the same jar)

raw chillies, washed, dried and sliced

Place the chilli slices into the brine, making sure the liquid covers all of them (they will float a bit of course, but don’t pack too much chilli, otherwise some of the pieces won’t pickle at all) and cover with a tight lid.

Place the jar into the warmest part of the fridge (vegetable drawer is a good place or the fridge doors) and wait 2 or 3 days (taste the chilli to see if it’s already changed the taste). You can shake the jar once or twice a day. Don’t keep these pickles for more than a week and transfer them to a colder place in the fridge once you think they are done. (After a certain time they might start developing mould).

Fresh Goat Cheese and Wild Garlic Spread/Dip

Wild garlic season is short, so I make sure I buy it every week while it lasts. Last Saturday, the nice lady who keeps my favourite goat cheese stall (at my French farmers’ market there are now three stalls selling exclusively goat cheese!) suggested I combine fresh goat cheese and wild garlic. As soon as I came home I made this simple spread and it was so perfectly delicious I still wonder why I haven’t thought about it earlier… If you’ve never tasted wild garlic, chopping it into a bowl of fresh cheese and spreading it on a slice of bread is a great starting point.

Ramsons, wild garlic, buckrams, bear’s garlic, bear paw garlic… (Allium Ursinum) is a wild, wide-leaved plant with a very distinct garlic scent and apparently a favourite of bears, who would dig out its bulbs (hence the name). Its edible long leaves are very similar to those of the lily of the valley and mixing them up is very dangerous, since the latter are toxic. The strong smell created when the leaves are rubbed is the only way to distinguish them if one is not an experienced forager. Planting its bulbs in one’s garden (the seeds are sold in Swiss gardening shops) or buying from a trustworthy market stall is even safer! … 

Wild garlic grows all around Europe but while its use in the kitchen is popular in certain countries, it is almost non-existent in the others and often limited to rural areas. In Switzerland it appears in April and disappears in May and is so popular, it can be found on many market stalls and even in supermarkets. It is extremely versatile and can be treated as a spinach or other leaf substitute but also as a condiment, a milder cousin of garlic. If you find yourself with a big bunch of wild garlic, here are some other ideas:

Chicken with Wild Garlic and Cashew Nuts

Chicken with Wild Garlic and Cashew Nuts

Wild Garlic Pillows

Wild Garlic Pillows

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic Pesto

Mock Spanakopita Rolls with Wild Garlic

TIPS: I’ve used here fresh goat cheese but if you don’t have access to it (or don’t like it), you can use cow or ewe cheese instead (or thick yogurt, such as Greek yogurt). It just must be fresh and slightly tangy.

Preparation: about ten minutes

Ingredients (serves as a snack for two-three):

250 g fresh goat cheese (or cow/ewe fresh cheese)

125 ml yogurt or sour cream

10 big wild garlic leaves choppes

salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients, add more yogurt if the consistency is too thick (and maybe more wild garlic leaves).

You can serve it immediately, but the taste improves (becomes more garlicky) after several hours in the fridge.

This spread/dip will keep several days in the fridge.