Category Archives: Tarts, Pies, Pizzas, Savoury Cakes, Pancakes

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.

Korean Mung Bean Pancake with Ground Meat and Kimchi

A very kind friend has recently offered me Our Korean Kitchen, a beautifully illustrated home cookery book written by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo, an Irish-Korean couple. It’s not my first Korean cookery book, but in this one everything looks appetising and effortless at the same time, so I couldn’t wait more than one day to put it into practice. A mung bean-based pancake batter sounded  particularly intriguing, quite different from all the Korean dishes I know and I happened to have every single ingredient, so the choice was easy. The pancake was rich and filling, but didn’t feel heavy at all and I loved the idea of a healthier, not wheat flour- but bean-based pancake. It might not look very exciting, but I promise it was absolutely delicious!

As usually, I have slightly modified the recipe (e.g. used a mixture of pork & beef I prefer instead of beef alone or adding baking powder), so check the original recipe in Our Korean Kitchen which is a fantastic source to have a peek into easy and delicious Korean home cooking.

TIPS: Dried mung beans are small, have a green khaki colour and are slightly oval in shape. They can be found now in many “normal” supermarkets, but you can look for them in organic or Asian shops, and of course, online.

The cooking process is really easy, though you have to plan the pancake a day ahead (the beans must be soaked overnight) or at least in the morning, if you want to have the pancake for the dinner. The only tricky part is frying this thick pancake without burning it and without leaving it raw inside (especially if you use pork or chicken). I did it on low heat with a cover on so that the top of the pancake cooked a bit too before the flipping over.

The baking powder is my own idea because I believe it makes such a filling pancake a bit fluffier (it does the same to the Japanese okonomiyaki). You can skip it of course.

The whole batter (apart from the meat) can be made ahead and wait one or two days in the fridge before the addition of meat and frying process.

The recipe calls for chopped kimchi (preferably from an old batch), but if you don’t have it, you can add some Korean medium-hot powdered chilli, an additional crushed garlic clove and an equal amount of a chopped cucumber, courgette or bok choy. It won’t really be a substitution, but it will lighten the pancake and add some spicy kick to it.

Even though this recipe calls for minced meat, I can easily imagine other proteins such as shrimp, mushrooms or cheese… and why not some vegetables ?

Preparation: about 40 minutes+overnight (beans soaking time)

Ingredients (serves two if eaten with several kinds of pickles and/or a green salad):

150g/about 5.3 oz mung beans

100g/3.5 oz Chinese cabbage kimchi (at least several weeks old) + 2 tablespoons kimchi juice

50 g-60g/about 1.7-2.1 oz minced meat (I have used pork and beef, but you can use any meat of your choice) mixed with 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

several tablespoons of spring onion leaves, chopped + some more to sprinkle on top before serving

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or less if you use normal soy sauce)

1 cm/0.4 in grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour or wheat flour

1 flat teaspoon baking powder

(sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds or Japanese garlic and chilli oil)

Soak the beans overnight.

Drain them and mix in a food processor with the kimchi juice,  adding some water (about 50 – 70 ml) until you obtain a thick batter. (My batter was quite smooth, but it had still some bits of mung beans and I liked it a lot).

Combine with the remaining ingredients (apart from the sesame oil or taberu rayu, if using).

Heat some oil in a pan and spread a 1.5cm – 2 cm layer of batter (you might need to adapt the pan’s size, but don’t make the pancake too thin, 1.5 cm is a minimum; I have used the smallest pan I have).

Cover the pan and fry the pancake at low heat until it becomes golden brown at the bottom. It took me about ten minutes.

Flip the pancake over and increase the heat to medium.

Fry the second side for about 5 minutes (check with a fork if the batter is fully cooked, especially the meat).

Repeat the frying process with the remaining batter.

Serve cut up into pieces (if eating with chopsticks), with some green onion, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds on top. I thought it was fantastic with some Japanese garlic and chilli oil (taberu rayu).

 

Spring Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savoury Pancake) with Wild Garlic

Okonomiyaki is one of the most frequent Japanese dishes in my house. From the beginning I took its name literally (it means roughly “grill what you want”) and never stopped improving, adapting to my changing palate and, of course, seasons. As a big garlic fan, I made crushed garlic the obligatory ingredient of every single batter. Last weekend I decided to add chopped wild garlic leaves instead and this seasonal twist made me discover one of the best versions (actually I wonder if it wasn’t even the best okonomiyaki in my life…). It’s definitely one of the best wild garlic dishes in my collection.

If you have never heard of okonomiyaki, it’s a kind of savoury pancake (sometimes called “Japanese pizza”), but the batter contains only a small amount of flour and lots of white cabbage. The magical side of every okonomiyaki is a generous choice of toppings added once it’s fried, and these usually include a special okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried and shaved bonito), green onions, pickled ginger, ao nori (seaweed “flakes”)… The basic cabbage batter can also be played with and enriched with sliced pork, beef, raw calamar or dried shrimp and it is often topped with thinly sliced pork belly, fried when the pancake is flipped. There are two main variations of okonomiyaki: Kansai/Osaka-style (the one I “practice” and describe above), and a very filling Hiroshima style, which contains also cooked noodles and which I find too heavy. 

As I have mentioned, I have experimented a lot with both the batter and the toppings. Most modifications are surprisingly successful and I can only hope the pancakes I make can still be called okonomiyaki….

If you don’t have wild garlic/ramsons (click here to learn more about it), you might like one of these versions:

Okonomiyaki with Chorizo

with Chorizo

Okonomiyaki with Bok Choy and Chicken

with Bok Choy and Chicken

Okonomiyaki with Chicken

with Chicken

Okonomiyaki with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon

with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon

...with Red Cabbage and Garlic

with Red Cabbage and Garlic

Okonomiyaki with Green Onions

TIPS:

Okonomiyaki batter mixture: it can be bought in Japanese grocery shops or prepared from the scratch. Personally I am happy to prepare it from scratch since it takes two minutes and I’m sure it tastes better. I have seen different batter recipes; mine is composed of an egg, some flour, some dashi (Japanese stock), salt, pepper, baking powder and, last but not least, grated mountain yam (or yamaimo in Japanese), a slimy cousin of the potato (I find it in organic shops and I know Asian and Chinese grocery shops sell it).  It is not necessary, but in my opinion it largely improves the texture, making it lighter and fluffier. Yamaimo freezes very well (I freeze it peeled in individual portions and then grate when half thawed). When I don’t have yam, I skip it and when I don’t have dashi, I simply replace it, trying to keep the same pancake-like texture. The result is still delicious, albeit slightly different.

Okonomiyaki is always served with okonomiyaki sauce. I once bought it and it was much too sweet, so I was more than happy to learn from Hiroyuki how to make my own sauce, mixing ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in desired proportions. (Nowadays I go even further, replacing sometimes this sauce with my homemade Indian style tomato chutney)

Okonomioyaki mixture can be prepared in advance and fried/grilled the following day. As an addict, I often make a double batch and have it two days in a row.

Okonomiyaki toppings: these usually include okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi (flakes of dried bonito). Ao nori (powdered seaweed) is also very frequent, but I have noticed many Westerners dislike its “fishy” aroma. Personally I prefer to skip it and sprinkle with green onion or chives. Among my obligatory toppings are also taberu rayu (chilli oil with sediments) and very often tobanjan (Chinese chilli paste, which I buy in… Japanese shops and in Japan!). You can add of course whatever topping you like!

Preparation: 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

Batter:

5 slightly heaped tablespoons flour

30 ml (about 1 oz) dashi (Japanese stock, home-made or instant) or a mixture of milk+dashi or good quality chicken stock or simply water (though the latter yields the least flavourful pancake)

1 egg

3 cm/about 1,2 in grated mountain yam (yamaimo) (can be omitted, but then less flour should be added)

salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

10  bok choy leaves and stalks (or more if the bok choy is small), chopped ; if your bok choy has more leaves than stalks, use only half of the leaves, otherwise the pancake will be too soft (at least for me)

1 big handful of chopped wild garlic leaves

1 chicken breast

1 tablespoon oil

Toppings:

dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)

okonomiyaki sauce (or a mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce) ; I have used here my Indian-style tomato chutney

mayonnaise

chopped chives or spring onions

2 tablespoons oil

(ao nori, or powdered seaweed)

(chili paste, oil or sauce, such as Taberu Rayu)

(pickled ginger)

(6 thin slices of smoked bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces)

Cut up the chicken breast into small cubes (1 cm x 1 cm). Season with salt and pepper, stir-fry until golden brown and put aside.

In a big bowl combine the batter ingredients. Adjust the consistency adding more liquids or more flour (the mixture should be very thick, not liquid and the batter should only bind the ingredients together and not dominate them).

Heat one tablespoon oil in a frying pan or on a smooth grill (called teppanyaki grill or la plancha).

Put half of the okonomiyaki mixture in a more or less round-shaped heap (you can adjust it on the pan).

Flatten delicately the pancake, but not too much. Otherwise it might fall into pieces when you turn it over. (My okonomiyaki is max. 1,5 cm/about 1/2 inch high).

If you use smoked bacon, place the pieces on top, cover the pan and let it fry at medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until you see the upper part of batter set. If you use an old-fashioned pan (steel or iron), you might have to turn down the heat to the lowest because it might burn.

Flip the pancake over, cover once more and fry for another 5 minutes until the bacon is slightly browned.

Flip over onto a plate and add your favourite toppings.

Repeat the same with the remaining batter mixture.

Chapatti, or Versatile Indian Flatbreads

Before embarking on this flatbread adventure I had never tasted chapatti or even seen them in “real” life. I had read about them, seen on blogs and in cookery books, but had no idea (and still don’t have!) what texture and taste I should obtain. These chapatti are soft, taste slightly nutty and are absolutely delicious, in spite of their weird forms and scary look (normally chapatti are of course perfectly round, but I have never managed to roll them out properly…). They are quick to prepare, easy to reheat or defrost and so surprisingly versatile, I now treat them as international wraps (these above were perfect with feta and bacon for my office lunch) and wonder how I could eat the store-bought tortillas all these years…

Chapatti/chapati are, after naans, the second Indian flatbread recipe I learnt. (Maybe one day I’ll show you my naans… but they look even worse than my chapatti). Indian cuisine has a big array of breads, but I chose chapatti because I read somewhere they were to Indians what tortillas were to Mexicans. I also liked the fact that they are made simply in a pan (not in a super hot tandoori!) and are relatively quick to prepare. As I browsed through recipes, I found they were all similar (i.e. called for water and flour), but I also realised that many Indian home cooks obtain dry tough chapatti and seek for advice. I stumbled upon a chapatti thread on Indus Ladies where some advised to add curd and oil. I added yogurt instead of the curd, played a bit with the amounts and the resulting flatbreads proved soft, easy to cook and addictive. I am too scared to try and compare the traditional flour and water recipe, so I’ll stick to this one. Following Meera Sodha’s advice in Made in India. Cooked in Britain, I used half wholemeal and half white flour, the mixture which is apparently closest to the Indian chapatti flour (I think this adds slightly nutty flavours, keeping the dough acceptable for those who hate wholemeal products).

TIPS:

Even if you don’t cook Indian, I strongly advise testing chapatti as an alternative to store-bought tortillas (I plan to make those too one day, inspired by MJ’s beautiful perfectly round corn tortillas). I use them to wrap everything I find in the fridge: raw cucumbers, peppers, chillies, fresh herbs, chicken, ham, feta, tofu… and add Greek yogurt, sriracha (it’s perfect!) and pickles. They are of course delicious with Indian curries…

It’s difficult to say exactly how thick chapatti should be. I roll out mine about 1 mm – 1.5 mm thick. (If they are very too thin, slightly transparent, they will become crisp, not soft!).

Once prepared, chapatti will keep for two-three days in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic. They can also be frozen, but make sure you divide them, otherwise you’ll have to defrost the whole batch. I heat the refrigerated chapatti for 10 seconds in the microwave and defrost those from the freezer for about 20 seconds.

When frying the second side of chapatti you should press it and the best tool I found for that is a potato press.

Many sources advise leaving dough for 30 minutes (or even more) before rolling out, so that it becomes softer. I try to do it, but when I am in a hurry, I start grilling chapatti straight away and they are soft anyway (maybe not as soft as with the 30 minutes waiting, but the difference is small).

Preparation: about 30 minutes (+30 min for the dough to become softer, but it’s not absolutely necessary)

Ingredients (makes about 10-12 chapatti):

125 g white flour

125 wholemeal flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 heaped tablespoons yogurt

3 tablespoons neutrally-tasting oil or coconut oil (I prefer coconut oil)

100 ml water (or a bit more, see below)

In a bowl combine all the ingredients and start kneading them.

If the mixture is too dry, add water by spoonfuls. If you add too much water chapatti will be drier, so don’t exaggerate.

Knead the mixture about 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft. Cover with plastic film and leave for 30 minutes (this is not necessary, but if you have time, do it because it makes the dough softer).

Divide the dough into big apricot-sized balls and cover them so that they don’t dry out.

In the meantime heat a big frying pan brushed with some oil (again, I use here coconut oil).

Roll out the dough into 1 mm thickness and grill at medium heat until bubbles show up (start rolling out another chapatti while the previous one fries).

At this point turn the chapatti over and fry for about 10 seconds, pressing it (a potato masher is perfect for that).

Place on a plate and proceed in the same way with other balls, brushing the pan with oil every second chapatti.

Cover the plate with plastic film and keep at room temperature until they cool down.

Then you can keep them for several days in the fridge or freeze them.

 

Filo Rolls with Buckwheat (Groats) and Mushrooms

If you like Japanese soba noodles and don’t mind a typical coarse texture of certain grains, you might be tempted to test this combination of buckwheat and mushrooms in crisp thin layers of Greek filo rolls. I can only hope you will love the results as much as I did. If you have never tasted buckwheat, forget all the health benefits you have heard about (I know it puts some people off…) and see it as I do: just another delicious fuss-free carb, versatile enough to go with Greek pastry or spicy Korean meals.

I know many people put it in the same bag as quinoa or other recent wonder food discoveries, but in countries where buckwheat groats/grains have been eaten for generations (Ukraine or Poland, for example) it’s simply an alternative to rice, potatoes, pasta or bread. The traditional method is to toast the grains before selling them and I advise against the non-toasted version (see the TIPS below). In Poland it’s eaten mainly with meat or mushrooms (or both) in sauce, but sometimes also as a filling in dumplings; I guess there are also some regional dishes I’m not aware of. I grew up eating buckwheat quite regularly topped with meat in sauce and I’m pretty sure my mum never insisted on it as being healthy (the way she did with some vegetables…). This attitude made me appreciate buckwheat the way it is: beautifully nutty scented, strong-flavoured carb that nowadays reminds me at the same time of Polish and Japanese cuisines (a curious and rare coincidence!).

It might be seen as a step too far by some of my dear visitors, but I see buckwheat most of all as a nice change from rice in many Asian dishes. After many experiments I realised it’s more versatile than I thought! I find it perfect with spicy Korean dishes, such as bibimbap or the Chicken Simmered in Gochujang Sauce. It’s also delicious when replacing… rice in fried rice! Because of its nutty strong flavours, it pairs perfectly with mushrooms, such as in this Japanese-inspired eringi and teriyaki version.

When experimenting with buckwheat never forget a sauce (either served on top, aside or mixed into the dish) because buckwheat is very dry. I have served these rolls with the spicy Gochujang and Sour Cream/Yogurt sauce and it was just perfect:

Gochujang and Sour Cream Sauce

This Greek Yogurt with Caramelised Onion would be fantastic too:

Yogurt/Quark Spread with Caramelised Onion

or this Bulgarian cousin of tzatziki:

Bulgarian Dill Salad/Dip (Dry Tarator)

I have posted two other buckwheat recipes, both very easy, so in case you want to explore other options…

Eringi and Buckwheat Groats

Fried Buckwheat Groats

TIPS: If you have never had buckwheat, make sure you buy a toasted version (the colour is medium to dark brown, while the non-toasted is light greenish), which is the traditional one and which has these unique wonderful nutty flavours. The non-toasted one is bland, softer and, just like many people who grew up with toasted buckwheat, I hated the non-toasted form when discovered accidentally in a health food aisle in Switzerland.

Cooking buckwheat is not difficult, but follow the below instructions because it quickly becomes mushy and inedible. The result should be dry and crunchy.

Do not omit fresh parsley! It suits perfectly the mushroom and buckwheat mixture.

Make sure you have another sheet or two of filo pastry just in case… The mushrooms might lose more or less water and you might want to put more or less filling in each roll.

If, on the other hand, you have leftover filling, you can add some vegetables, even some meat leftovers, and prepare it like stir-fried rice, adding some soy sauce, putting a poached or fried egg on top…

The soy sauce is not obligatory. You can add some more salt to taste or nothing.

Preparation: about 1h30

Ingredients (serves two if eaten with a salad as a main course):

6 – 7 sheets of filo pastry (make sure you have one or two more, just in case you have more filling to use up)

250 g (about 1/2 lb) button mushrooms 

200 ml (about 6.8 oz) uncooked toasted buckwheat groats + 1/2 teaspoon salt

6 big European shallots (or 2 medium onions)

6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or 3 tablespoons normal soy sauce (I use Japanese soy sauce, but if you use Chinese, choose the light coloured one)

a handful of chopped fresh parsley

ground pepper

thick creamy sauce (such as the above gochujang sauce)

oil for stir-frying and for brushing the rolls (you can use melted butter to brush the rolls)

Put the buckwheat groats into a cup.

Measure the double of the buckwheat’s volume in water.

Pour the water into a pan. Bring it to a boil, add the salt.

Throw the buckwheat into the pan and let it cook partially covered at medium heat for about ten minutes.

Lower the heat and let it simmer, fully covered, for about 5 more minutes.

The water should be completely absorbed by the grains. If it’s not absorbed yet, put the pan aside, leaving the cover on and it will get absorbed without cooking too.

As soon as it’s absorbed, don’t uncover the pan and put it aside keeping it warm, for example wrapped in a blanket, though in this dish you use the buckwheat cold, so simply don’t lift the cover and prepare the rest of the filling.

Chop the shallots and the mushrooms.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and stir fry the shallots at medium heat.

Put the shallots into a big bowl.

Stir-fry the mushrooms in another tablespoon of oil until they start losing volume, season them with salt and add to the shallots.

Finally add the buckwheat groats, the soy sauce and the chopped parsley.

Season with freshly ground pepper and combine all the filling ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Spread one filo sheet on a big chopping board.

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge which is closest to you, a portion of the filling (5-6 heaped tablespoons per sheet).

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll, so that the filling doesn’t leak during the baking process (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 inch on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

(You can also cut the filo sheets in two and make smaller rolls; this is what I did obtaining the tiny size of rolls you see above).

Brush the top of the rolls with some oil or melted butter, place on a baking tray or baking paper and bake in the oven until slightly golden (about 30 minutes in mine). Watch them often as they tend to burn quite quickly.

Since the filling is dry, make sure you don’t forget a sauce!