Posts Tagged With: noodles

November 52

Of all the various targets that I set myself this month, the one that has been most unexpectedly successful was my determination to cook more new ingredients. I know there’s no physical way for me to catch up, but I hoped I might actually manage a month that averaged out to a new ingredient each week. And lo and behold I was actually successful! It was a bit touch and go there until the last week of the month, in fact I was properly close to the line with the last ingredient being sprinkled into soup yesterday and today. However, despite a shaky start – I made all the chilli in the world at the start of the month and thoroughly scunnered myself of it – and being away for work part of the month, I managed to take reliable dishes from my repertoire and add a more adventurous twist to them with a new ingredient.

Adzuki Beans

I picked these up as an alternative to kidney beans and cooked them much as I would kidney beans, in a veggie chilli. Before cooking they had a similar colour to kidney beans, though they’re smaller and between that and their two-tone colour scheme – that to my eyes makes them look as though they’re bursting out of their skins – they reminded me more of black-eyed beans.

Since making dinner with them I’ve discovered that these are in fact the red beans that make up red-bean paste so I feel I really ought to have done something more exciting with them. Perhaps having a go at making chaat or experimenting with a Japanese dessert!

Whole-wheat Noodles

As part of my plan to try lots of new ingredients this year, I’ve been picking up all kinds of new and interesting noodles to try. These ones ended up being next on the list for the simple – and expedient – reason that they were due to expire at the end of the month. They’re fine. Much like whole-wheat pasta, I feel they need a bit extra cooking, along with a flavoursome sauce, because they taste similar and I find that a bit discombobulating when eaten alongside a stir-fry. I think my issue with them is that you can taste the whole-wheat, and I associate that with self-declared ‘health-foods’ – the kind of thing you only eat because you know it’s good for you – and tastes like it’s good for you isn’t actually a compliment. Perfectly serviceable but not something I’m likely to bother with going forward.

Yuzu Citrus Seasoning

I wasn’t sure how effective this would be, but actually this was surprisingly good. When I don’t have any stir-fry sauces in the house, I make a basic sauce with lime juice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Chinese five spice and a little corn flour. If I’m in a hurry I just chuck a good slug of any two of those give it a good stir and hope for the best. The first time I cooked with Yuzu I just slung some rice wine vinegar and a generous slug of Yuzu into my stir-fry and was really pleased with the result. The Yuzu seasoning I’d bought has a little thickener in it, so was just thick enough that it coated everything and didn’t just end up sizzling in the bottom of the pan. It soaked in nicely to the tofu and the baby sweet corn, giving them a mellow citrusy tang, and while the other ingredients didn’t pick it up quite so well, it left the ghost of a tang in the back of my throat on every bite.

Apparently there’s been a bit of a fad for it here among foodies, and I can see why. I look forward to substituting it for lime juice in all kinds of different dishes going forward.

Za’atar

I’ve had this for ages and never got round to cooking with it, though the scent has been seeping out the bag and making me hungry whenever I come across it. I must confess that I was prompted to cook with this because I’d been feeling chuffed with myself for having actually tried four new ingredients this month, only to realise that it was only three when I came to write up this post! However when I was making soup (Cauliflower and Leek) I came across my packet of Za’atar and was inspired. I find that Cauliflower can often be a bit bland, unless paired with a strong flavour, which is why I often but it in curries and prefer my cauliflower cheese to be made with a good strong cheese. So I’ve been experimenting with using it to season said soup, it’s taken a few goes to get the right level of seasoning – too little and while it smells amazing you can barely taste it. It adds an extra level of warming to the soup and gives a little extra kick to an otherwise quite plain soup.

It’s less of a taste on the tongue and in the back of the throat and the nose, but no less pleasurable for that. I make a Cauliflower and Ras el Hanout Soup, and I think substituting Za’atar for the Ras el Hanout would give it a more mellow flavour. One perhaps more suitable for when I make it for my less adventurous relatives!

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June Ingredients

This month has been quite successful on the trying lots of new ingredients. I managed to try five different ingredients this month – it would have been six but I couldn’t track down konbu powder. As I’ve been averaging one new recipe a month at the moment, I picked out one that included lots of different new ingredients that I either thought I would like or have eaten previously and know I like. White miso and tofu ramen with chilli garlic asparagus, had the advantage of being the kind of recipe that both looks and sounds exactly like something I would love, and has a pretty straightforward recipe. I love Miso/ramen soups but I’m always a little nervous of making my own, at least ones more complex than packet ramen with veggies and protein thrown in.

Edamame Beans
I had a bit of an adventure getting hold of these. The recipe blithely tells you that most major supermarkets stock podded and frozen edamame beans, and while that may be true in the south of England, here in the north of Scotland that is really not the case. I eventually tracked some down in the little Sainsbury’s (who actually proved to be a saviour for the recipe having many of the specific items that much bigger supermarkets did not) in the next town over. They are rather tasty lightly pan-fried as in this recipe, but overall I think I prefer them boiled. I love edamame beans, and I think I might make them a freezer staple as a more exciting alternative to peas. One of my favourite Yo Sushi dishes is a dish that appears to be essentially edamame cooked with sea-salt and spring onions so I fully intend to get myself some sea-salt and attempt to recreate it. Perhaps even with spring onions straight from my garden!

Soba Noodles

I generally prefer Udon noodles when I’m making or eating Japanese noodle dishes – my dad calls them worms, but the thick unctuous texture that puts him off, is my favourite part about them. Soba noodles do however work perfectly in ramen and these ones had a pleasingly whole-wheat flavour that I enjoyed and what worked particularly well in the soup.

Tahini Paste

I bought this with intent to make something from my Middle Eastern cookery book, but it turns out that it makes a good addition to soup base. I know some people who use it as a healthier alterative to peanut butter, but on its own I find tahini paste to be a bit overwhelming. I really like sesame seeds, but to me it tastes like when I’ve been cooking with sesame seeds and accidentally gone overboard with them? Perhaps I just bought the wrong kind, it was after all ‘light’ tahini paste

Soy Milk

I can’t speak to how well this does or doesn’t work as a milk substitute, but my goodness it makes a lovely miso soup. I suppose it shouldn’t really be a surprise that soymilk should work really well with soybean paste, but nonetheless it was a pleasant discovery that even before I had added any tofu – there’s a lot of soy in this recipe – noodles or veg it was strangely more-ish. I’ve only ever made miso soup with hot water; perhaps making it with soymilk instead – or perhaps going 50/50 – might be the key to more enjoyable miso soup. Also it has a decent shelf life, so once I have more shelf space I might take to keeping a carton of the cupboard kind for emergency miso soup!

White Miso Paste

My previous experiments with miso paste have been…uninspiring, but even before I put it in the blender to make the larger paste; it had a pleasingly mild taste. (I got some on my hand; I am not a tidy cook.) I still have some left over so I feel much more confident about making a basic miso soup with just the paste, some spring onions and a little tofu. Quick, cheap and easy lunches ahoy!

 

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Emergency Back-Up Dinners

Back in December, when I rescued dinner disaster from jaws of defeat with a Tortilla Pizza, I mentioned that I was adding that particular recipe to my Emergency Back-up Dinners list. After finding myself making emergency back-up tortilla pizza for my dinner this evening, I thought it was probably high time that I actually wrote about emergency back-up dinners.

I am, and indeed have, if not always been, certainly been my entire adult life, a chronic procrastinator. I can procrastinate anything, some people merely procrastinate on things they don’t want to do or things that are hard, I procrastinate on things I want to do and enjoy. As a student I tried to use food to motivate myself, which was a truly terrible idea, as I’d end up procrastinating eating until I started to feel nauseas. Hence why I ended up turning food prep into a self-care routine. I make detailed plans on what I want to cook, because otherwise I’m capable of standing staring at a cupboard full of food for the best part of an hour, frozen by inertia, unable to figure out what I want to eat and getting ever hungrier. While as an adult, my relationship with food is much healthier, if I’m having a bad day, I’m entirely capable of procrastinating on making dinner until its two late to make whatever I actually wanted to make.

So for those days, I have Emergency Back-up Dinners. Simple, straightforward dinners, that require minimal prep, short cooking times and only a few ingredients. They almost always involve some variety of cupboard staples that I almost always have in the cupboard and can use as a base. Also, because, often once I get started on cooking I’ll feel inspired to do something more adventurous, they’re also recipes that can be easily made more complex if you find yourself with extra energy or ingredients.

Melting Sunshine Rice
This was the very first of my vegetarian appropriate emergency back-up dinners. I’ve made so often over the years that it never even made it into my hand-made recipe-book, instead its ingrained in my brain. It came from a ‘Low-fat cooking’ recipe book I found at the back of a drawer in my mother’s kitchen over a decade ago. I think, technically, it was probably meant to be an accompaniment rather than the main dish, but its pure sunshiny comfort in a bowl all by itself. The main theme of the recipe is yellow. Cook the rice with a generous teaspoon of turmeric. Throw in a couple of handfuls of frozen sweet corn. Chop up half a yellow pepper into small pieces – I don’t think that’s actually in the original recipe but it does taste good – and depending how crunchy you prefer your peppers either add while the rice still has few minutes of cooking left or once you’ve drained your rice. Once you’ve drained the rice, return to the pot and tear up some mozzarella cheese (or any other suitably melt-y cheese you have in the fridge) and stir through the rice so it gets nice and melted. Spoon into bowls and enjoy. (You can put leftovers in a box in the fridge for an edible hug for lunch on a cold day, or eat straight from the pot if it’s been that sort of day.)

Sesame Hot Noodles
This has been in my repertoire almost as long as the Melting Sunshine Rice, and is a recipe firmly in the ‘that shouldn’t taste as good as it does’ genre. Cook a nest (or two) of egg noodles according to the packet instructions. Mix together a couple of tablespoons of sunflower and sesame oils, with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a crushed or finely chopped garlic clove. Once smooth, add finely chopped chilli to taste, three tablespoons of sesame seeds, four tablespoons each of soy sauce and lime juice and mix well. Drain your noodles, dump the gloopy disaster into the pan and stir through noodles until heated through. Serve and wonder aloud why on earth this tastes so good. If you’re feeling fancy, you can always stir-fry some spring onions, mushrooms and the protein of your choice and them to the pot, but its pretty satisfying just the way it comes.
Sesame Chilli NoodlesSesame Hot Noodles
Apparently some people have couscous in their cupboard that isn’t quick cook? I’m not one of those people. Couscous has always been an emergency food for me, whenever I go on holiday or other long journeys I take an emergency packet of lemon and coriander couscous with me in case of food disasters. In more civilised circumstances, I just dump a few ounces of couscous into a pint of vegetable stock, leave until its drunk all the stock, wilt some spinach in a pan with some feta cheese and stir through that and a couple of generous teaspoons of harissa paste. The best part of this dish – aside from being, as far as I’m concerned, the tastiest way to eat couscous – is that when you take your leftovers to work for lunch the following day, your colleagues will act like you’ve made the fanciest of lunches. Especially if you used the giant couscous they sell now. Unless your colleagues are actually from either side of the Mediterranean, then they’ll be on to you…
Harissa Couscous with Spinach & Feta
Emergency Back-up Ramen
Packet noodles – with those little sachets of flavouring – were a staple of my student days that I look back on with mix love and loathing. However, more recently I’ve discovered some in the world food section of the supermarket, that actually lives up to the name. They do in fact attempt to make a semi-decent basic noodle soup. So for ages I kept them in the cupboard as an emergency dinner, when I looked in the fridge and thought, that’s an odd assortment of veggies, and I’ve got some cooked meat and I really can’t be bothered making a stir-fry… These days I can only use the sesame flavoured ones, which handily makes a nice noodle soup all by itself, and I now have to throw in a handful of frozen quorn pieces in a the small frying pan, with a couple of spring onions, and a mushroom or two, and maybe half a pepper you’d forgotten was in the fridge. And suddenly you’ve got enough food for two, and can divide the noodles and accompaniments in two, have noodle, quorn and veg soup for dinner and noodles, with quorn, veg and whatever stir fry sauce has been lurking unloved in the fridge. (In a true emergency mix a tablespoon each of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, corn flour and Chinese five spice together in a pot heat through until it thickens and pour over your leftovers. Despite almost never buying it, I almost always have sticky plum sauce in the fridge. It keeps well.)
Ramen!

Not Remotely Mexican Quesadillas
I love quesadillas. I do not, in any way shape or form, make remotely authentic quesadillas. Generally I make them with leftover veggie chilli and lots of cheese. However I have also been known to fill them with anything that fits the bill of thick, unctuous and spicy. Almost always, when I’ve made a stir fry or a curry in bulk, will end up with a three decent sized portions and one, awkwardly small sized portion. A portion that, if it were chilli, would be the perfect size for quesadillas. And honestly if you’re using up leftover korma or goan curry, and you happen to have some paneer in the fridge, its amazing in fake quesadillas.

Categories: being veggie, challenges, feeling philisophical | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

More Adventures in Meat Substitutes

When I first went vegetarian full-time (a year and a bit ago) I did some unsuccessful experimentation with ‘meat-substitutes’. Recently I decided to try again in my quest to manage a varied diet with the need for quick and easy post-work cooking to balance out the more organised bulk cooks that I do. I’m pleased to be able to say that I have finally found a way to eat quorn that I enjoy. The answer apparently is curry.

One thing I miss about chicken is being able to stir fry some protein with some mushrooms, dump a jar of sauce over it, chuck it in a bowl and eat it with poppadoms/naan bread/prawn crackers as appropriate. But, I have discovered that frozen ‘chicken style’ quorn works as a perfect substitute. There’s something about the spices in curries that penetrate the quorn much more effectively than those used in Mexican food. So for example, even a jar of something mild like Korma will mask that distinctive quorn flavour! Success!

I expanded this out in two exciting directions last week. Having had success with the aforementioned jar of korma, I got a little bit more adventurous and picked up a jar of Keralan curry paste, a couple of handfuls of quorn, some mushrooms, spring-onions and half a can of coconut milk later – lots of delicious curry was served. I even managed to knock up a decent pilau with some massive raisins (left-over from the ones I steeped for my quinoa-that-wasn’t dish a few weeks back), some whole spices (carefully counted cardamom pods and a couple of sticks of Thai lemongrass) and some flaked almonds. Tasty, quick and easy and almost entirely made up from stuff I already had in my cupboards. I’ve never had Keralan curry before so that was an adventure but it’s delicious – pleasantly fennelly but not overwhelmingly so.
Keralan Curry
I do love daal best, but sometimes I want Indian food without spending 3 hours messing around with lentils and fried spices.

After the success of incorporating quorn into Indian food, I decided to venture into East Asian food. I made an old favourite of mine, sesame hot noodles. I doubt its remotely authentic but it is very tasty. The sauce is made by combining peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime-juice, chilli and sesame seeds. It’s a quick and easy dish and I’d resurrected it because I needed to do a bulk cook and had zero motivation to do so. But while I was waiting for the noodles to cook, I noticed in my notes for the recipe (I have a little notebook of recipes I’ve gathered over the last 10 years) mentioned bulking it out with chicken and mushroom. I’d already stuck a few bits of baby corn, I’d found lurking in the salad box, in with my noodles. Feeling inspired I grabbed a handful of quorn, a couple of mushrooms that need using up (I nabbed them from the reduced section) and a couple of spring onions stir-fried them until everything was cook and threw them into the mix. Voila! Suddenly my super-lazy emergency dinner looked like a proper meal!

Sesame Hot Noodles

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