The food bloggers breakfast must be a thing of wonder. Cold soaked oats, Manuka honey, and exotic berries topped off with superfoods smoothie packed with vitamins. Alas as a working dad heading off on the school run it’s lucky to be a piece of toast with too much butter* and some homemade jam. Now there is nothing wrong at all with toast and at the weekend it is a great start to your day. Sourdough with some smoked salmon and creamy scrambled eggs or with crushed avocado, eggs poached or boiled and a little chilli kick.
Now I will be honest my breakfast aims do tend to aim towards a sky-high pile of bacon, well a full fry up to be honest or a tower of pancakes. I do however like porridge made with milk ( sorry true Scots ) with a little brown sugar sprinkled on top and another favourite made from oats, home baked granola. Granola is a very popular breakfast cereal made from the aforementioned oats with oil and honey or sugar.
So, if you ’ve not already noticed a theme not particularly healthy but very tasty. Factory manufactured granola can be quite expensive and yet it is so very easy to make at home. It is delicious mixed with dried fruits and nuts such as flaked almonds, apricots, raisins, and sultanas or eaten with creamy, natural yoghurt, sliced banana and sprinkled with blueberries.
A bit about Home baked Granola
Granola was invented and trademarked in America by a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg as a baked breakfast cereal at a similar time to muesli, which is also made from oats although neither sweetened or cooked. With the addition of nuts and dried fruits, granola is often marketed as a ‘healthy option’ however it does contain a lot of sugar. Granola or pressed granola bars ( similar to Flapjack ) are a good source of energy and is often carried by long-distance hikers. Granola can also be used in making and garnishing desserts such as my recipe for Cranachan or served with iced lemon parfait and lemon curd.
*I love butter
that much we are almost having a relationship.
Oats are gluten free but can cause a similar reaction and may be processed in factories that process wheat and barley.
Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a very popular Sichuan Chinese dish made from tofu, Douchi or fermented black beans, rice wine, pungent Sichuan peppers and a double hit of chilli flakes and Douban, a chilli and bean paste. Classically the dish is made with ground beef or pork and so spicy as to make the diner sweat. In this recipe, I have substituted roughly chopped Shiitake mushrooms for the meat to make a tasty vegetarian option. Last year I posted a serious of recipes from one of my favourite Chinese cuisines to celebrate Chinese New Year including My Cantonese Pork and Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. This year I am going to post some Sichuan dishes to add to the collection.
Mapo Tofu History
The origins of the dish are a little confusing but one thing is for certain and all of the experts agree on the meaning of the name ‘ Mapo ‘. Ma stands for pockmarks and po is derived from the Chinese for old lady or grandma. So Mapo tofu is a shortening of the name Pockmarked Ma’s Bean Curd. This lady may have owned a restaurant, or been a relative of a restaurant owner, or simply being hospitable. whatever she created a stunning dish packed with flavour. Today there are many variations and recipes that are often adapted with less spice, but you should really give the authentic recipe a try. Enjoy.
Mapo Tofu Ingredients
Tofu or bean curd is made from soy milk. In a process similar to making cheese it is first made into curds which are pressed into blocks. The finished product has a soft yielding texture and is quite bland in taste but is often used in really highly-flavoured dishes such as Mapo tofu.
Sichuan pepper is not like any of its namesakes the smell and taste is unique. It has a citrus aroma, in fact, it is a member of the citrus family and creates a mild pleasant numbness in the mouth.
Doubanjiang or douban is a salty spicy paste made from fermented broad beans, soya beans and rice and red chillies. It is known as ‘ the soul of Sichuan cuisine ‘.
Douchi ( 豆豉 ) are semi-dried fermented and salted black soybeans used in Chinese cooking. The finished taste is both sweet and salty so the beans are used sparingly as a flavouring to dishes. Douchiare one of the oldest know products made from soybeans dating back over two thousand years.
Use a wooden spoon or flat spatula to gently stir the dish when cooking to avoid breaking up the tofu. As both the fermented black beans and the douban are salty check the flavour of the dish before adding any additional salt. If you want a little more Sichuan hit sprinkle the finished dish with extra freshly ground Sichuan pepper.
As you will be making this quickly in a wok it helps to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking.
It is time for you to open the cupboard and find that half used tin of Madras curry powder. It is National Curry Week . I want to start with an easy recipe, nutritious, and full of flavour, a Roasted Vegetable Curry. As an added bonus for everyone, this is my first vegan recipe. I can totally guarantee it is so tasty, great for everyone to eat and enjoy. Roast Vegetable Curry is a comforting supper dish you can serve just as it is. Or serve it as a side as part of a larger group meal. Why not try it with my Butter Chicken, rice, poppadums, and pickles.
Every one Loves Curry
Curries are now a staple part of English cooking. Chicken Tikka Masala is now the most popular takeaway dish in the UK. Our tastes have definitely changed from the days of early Indian influenced dishes such as kedgeree. This recipe was bought home from India by colonial civil servants. We now eat curry dishes from around the world. Curry recipes from turmeric and ginger spiced Malay to the fantastically popular Thai green variety. Finally please remember curry does not need to be fiery hot. The key is developing layers of flavour through using different spices and aromatics.
Roasted Vegetable Curry
My recipe uses chilli, ginger, garlic and curry powder as the key flavours. If you are a little more confident you can substitute ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and mustard powder for the curry powder.
Believe it or not, curry powder was not invented in India. The most common theory is that it was invented by Chinese cooks to emulate the recipes the British had grown used to. The most used spice mixes in India are Garam Masala.
Any spice mix and ground spice you may have has a limited shelf life. Spices are best stored in an air-tight container in a cool environment away from direct sunlight. Over time the intense flavours will be lost and the taste can become stale in time.
I have used several vegetables, but this recipe is a great fridge clearer whatever you have in your salad drawer can go into it, cauliflower, aubergine, boiled potatoes, tomatoes you can really experiment. You can save time by omitting the garlic, chilli, ginger, and spices and use a quality Tikka Masala curry paste if you are in a hurry.
Delicious sun-ripened summer vegetables from Jersey
We are coming to the end of a beautiful Jersey Summer. What do you think of when you think of food and Jersey summer? Is it some of our amazing seafood? Fresh strawberries and thick Jersey cream? We are lucky to have so much fantastic food right on our doorsteps from the humble hedge veg, dedicated producers big and small, and all fishermen and farmers. I think this rather special version of Ratatouille called Confit Byaldi captures the best of our island, our horticultural heritage, and delicious sun-ripened local produce.
When I made the first trial batch of Confit Byaldi my daughter and I sat and ate a massive bowl just on its own, it really is that good. I suggest it would be lovely at lunchtime with some fresh crusty bread or tasty supper piled in a baked potato. As a side why not serve Confit Byaldi with some sauté, local diver-caught scallops or pan-fried sea bass or with grilled Halloumi and Jersey Royals. The recipe for Confit Byaldi is not complicated but does involve a little preparation so is perhaps best made a day in advance and the flavours, if you can leave it alone, do improve overnight. As an added bonus the red pepper sauce is brilliant with pasta or as an accompaniment for grilled fish like Sea bass and Bream.
Confit Byaldi 4 generous servings
For the Pepper Sauce
2 Red Peppers, remove the seeds and stem and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
For the Red Pepper Sauce
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pan and sauté the onion of twenty to thirty minutes until soft, add the garlic stir and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the red pepper, chopped tomato, any juices, thyme, bay leaf, sugar and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for twenty minutes the take off the lid and simmer to reduce any liquid for another ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, remove the herbs, season generously and blitz in a food processor until smooth. ( This can be made in advance ).
For the Confit Byaldi
Heat your oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Spread a layer of your prepared pepper sauce in the bottom of a twenty-centimetre oven-proof casserole or baking dish. From the side of the dish, arrange a row of alternating slices of the sliced vegetables, overlapping so that just a little of each slice is exposed.
Continue overlapping the vegetables in a close spiral until the dish is filled. Sprinkle with the thyme, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.
Cover with baking paper and foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until the vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, roughly two hours. Uncover and bake for a further thirty minutes to colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
You can now cover and refrigerate overnight if you wish. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm as required, carefully lift from the tray with a spatula and drizzle with tomato dressing.
For Tomato Dressing
Gently mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
What to Drink? In the Walt Disney film Ratatouille, the world-famous chef Thomas Keller invented a version of Confit Byaldi which was served to the imposing restaurant critic with a bottle of Chateau Latour. If you cannot afford this I would recommend a classic French Syrah or good Australian or Argentinian Shiraz, a great match for the rich umami sweet vegetable flavours.