Mapo tofu

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

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
Mapo tofu

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

Sliced tofu
Sliced Tofu

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
Sichuan pepper

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 ‘.

Fermented Black Beans
Douchi – fermented black beans

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. Douchi are one of the oldest know products made from soybeans dating back over two thousand years.

Top Tips

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.
Roasted Vegetable Curry

Roasted Vegetable Curry – National Curry Week

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
Roasted Vegetable Curry

Spices

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.

Confit Byaldi - a type of Ratatouille

A Taste of Jersey Summer – Confit Byaldi

Mediterranean Vegetables
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 - a type of Ratatouille
Confit Byaldi

Confit Byaldi       4 generous servings

For the Pepper Sauce

2 Red Peppers, remove the seeds and stem and cut into chunks

8 large Vine Tomatoes, deseeded and chopped

1 large Spanish Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

½ teaspoon of Caster Sugar

A good glug of Olive Oil

1 Sprig of fresh Thyme

1 Bay Leaf

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

For the Confit Byaldi

1 large Green Courgette, washed and thinly sliced

1 large Yellow Courgette, washed and thinly sliced

2 Red Peppers, deseeded and cut into 2 ½ centimetre squares

( any off cuts can go into the pepper sauce )

4 Baby Aubergines, thinly sliced

3 Red Tomatoes, thinly sliced

3 Yellow Tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 teaspoon Olive Oil

⅛ teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves

Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

For the Tomato Dressing

1 large, ripe Tomato, deseeded and finely chopped

A splash of quality White Wine or Cider Vinegar

3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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.

Confit Layered Vegetables

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.

Confit finished spiral

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.

Wine

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.

Allergens in this recipe are;

There are no Allergens

Please see the Allergens Page

Cauliflower Veloute with Cauliflower Pakora and Curry Oil

This week I’ve been looking at some of the soup recipes I have put online and while I had several classics such as Gazpacho, French Onion and Chowder I wanted something a little more elegant so today’s recipe is a sophisticated soup ideal for a dinner party and perhaps as the starter for your Christmas Dinner. This rich, silky smooth cauliflower soup is an ideal partner to the spicy flavours of the pakora’s and curry oil. A veloute is a traditional soup made with a stock thickened with a roux, this recipe also contains potato for extra body.

Cauliflower Soup.jpg
Cauliflower Veloute

Cauliflower Veloute

1 kg ( approximately ) 1 large Cauliflower, cut up

1 large Baking Potato, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 ltr  homemade Chicken or Vegetable stock

600ml full-fat Milk

142ml carton Double Cream

60gr Plain Flour

40gr Butter

4 tbsp Olive Oil

A small sprig of fresh Thyme

Small Bay Leaf

Sea Salt and White Pepper

A few drops of fresh Lemon Juice

A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the cauliflower, potato, and onion. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for about ten minutes without colouring, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and cook out stirring continuously for two further minutes. Add the nutmeg, bay leaf, and thyme and pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then pour in the milk and return gently to a gentle simmer. This prevents scum forming from the milk solids. Simmer, uncovered, for fifteen minutes until the vegetables are soft then, add half the cream.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly then take out the thyme and bay leaf before blending in a food processor. For an extra smooth finish, push the purée through a sieve with the back of a ladle. Reheat gently do not boil, stir in the rest of the cream, the lemon juice, season to taste and serve.

You can prepare the soup ahead of time, cool, cover and chill then reheat as required.

Curry Oil

100ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil, warmed in a small pan

2 level teaspoons of Curry Powder

1 tsp crushed Coriander Seeds

1 tsp yellow Mustard Seeds

½ tsp Turmeric

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 stalk of Lemongrass, peeled and roughly chopped

Grated Zest of 1 fresh Lime

Generous pinch of Sea Salt

 In a small frying pan, toast the curry powder, turmeric, coriander and mustard seeds for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn the spices, add the garlic, lemongrass, lime zest, salt and warm olive oil. Set aside to cool and infuse in a warm place for at least an hour. Strain the oil through a fine sieve cover and set aside until needed.

Cauliflower Pakoras

 Half a second Cauliflower ( around 500gr trimmed  into 2cm florets )

For the Batter

100gr Gram / Chickpea Flour

175ml ice cold Water

1 tsp ground Coriander

1 tsp ground Turmeric

1 tsp ground Cumin

A couple of generous pinches of Cayenne Pepper

¼ tsp fine Salt

Neutral Vegetable Oil for frying

Sieve all of the dry batter ingredients into a bowl to remove any lumps. Slowly pour in the water whisking together to make a smooth batter. The finished batter should be the consistency of double cream. Add a little extra cold water if required. Add the cauliflower florets to the batter and mix thoroughly to ensure they are all coated in the batter.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, it needs to be around 3 centimeters deep. When you can gently fry a piece of stale bread to golden brown the oil is hot enough. Place three or four spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and cook for two minutes until golden brown on one side then turn over and cook for another couple of minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep cooking in batches until all the mixture is used up.

To serve ladle piping hot soup into bowls and add two or three pakoras, drizzle over curry oil and garnish with a little freshly chopped coriander.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Flour   Milk   Mustard

Please see the Allergens Page

 

Super Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup – A Bonfire Night Staple

Autumn is one of my favourite culinary times of the year, root vegetables are becoming abundant, it is the season for game, hearty stews and fiery curries and it is when soups really come into their own. As it is Bonfire Night I thought I would pass one of our family favourite recipes. There is nothing as comforting after walking on the beach or kicking up some leaves up in the park with the children and coming home and eating a nice bowl of soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup 2

 

We love creamy chowder, carrot and coriander but in our house, the girls love roasted red pepper and tomato best. This is a really easy, comforting recipe that freezes exceeding well so could be made in advance, it is a fantastic thick, full of sweet, smoky flavours and great served in a mug as you stand to watch the fireworks. Passed through a sieve it can be dressed up as a lovely lunchtime treat or simple supper dish. So, for the perfect fifth of November feast make sure you have some crisp-skinned jacket potatoes freshly baked in the oven, a plate full of toffee apples for the children and a big, big pan of this delicious soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup            serves 4 to 6

2 large deep Red Peppers, halved & de-seeded.

1 large Onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled.

2 sticks of Celery, washed and thinly sliced

1 large Carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 x 400 gr tins of chopped Tomatoes

1/2 litre of Vegetable Stock

100 ml quality Olive Oil

50 gr Tomato Purée

1 heaped teaspoon dried Basil

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

Juice of one fresh Lemon

A generous pinch of dried Chilli flakes

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C /  360 F / Gas Mark 4. Place the pepper halves and garlic cloves on to a baking tray and drizzle with a little of the olive oil. Bake at the top of your oven for thirty minutes until the vegetables are roasted and nicely caramelised. In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, over a medium heat, and sauté the chopped onion, carrot and celery for about ten minutes until soft.

In a second pan heat up the vegetable stock and add the tomato purée and the chilli flakes. Whisk and then add to the onions, celery and carrots. Peel any very dark, burnt spots from the peppers and add them, the garlic and remaining ingredients to the stock and vegetables. Bring the soup to a low boil, turn down the heat and simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to completely cool then using a hand blender or food processor blitz the until the soup is smooth. You can pass the soup through a sieve if you want a more refined dinner party finish. To serve, reheat and season with salt, pepper and lemon to taste.

Roasted Jersey Royals and Chickpea Salad

If you love your potatoes, your mash, your roasties and your chips then now it is the season to celebrate. The first or early potato crops are being lifted in Cornwall and the South West, but for the real connoisseur, there is only one option, the Jersey Royal. Now you lucky folk can get them on every high street in Britain, every good greengrocer, every supermarket sells the tastiest potatoes you will try. Quite often at a better price than on the island of Jersey itself. So I hold my hand up here, I live on the island, I could always just go dig up a bucket load I guess if the farmers didn’t guard them so highly.

Tis-the-Season....-for-Jersey-Royals-fields

Right now across our fertile fields you can see acres of plastic sheets covering the wonderful Jersey main season potato crop. The earliest and hardiest growers would have been planting in November for the early season potatoes. Visitors to the island are often amazed by the land that is turned over to potato growing, virtually vertical pockets of soil on rocky outcrops are planted carefully suspended by ropes. The potato harvest lasts from early April through to June depending of course on the climate conditions. The above average temperature of the island, its easy draining soil and the use of the abundant local seaweed as a fertiliser all helps to shape the flavour of this perfect potato. The islanders would swear to the fact the secret is all in the use of abundant amounts of the pungent seaweed.

Jersey Royals 3

We need however to go back to 1878 ( Fear not this is only a minor historical digression and an essential part of our tale ) for the origin of the Jersey Royal or to be more precise the Jersey Royal Fluke and its unique taste. A pair of abnormally large potatoes were purchased and later cultivated by Hugh de La Haye becoming the forerunners of the modern jersey potato industry. Today at its peak 1500 tonnes a day are exported during the season’s peak and the Jersey Royal enjoys EU protected origin status. For more information please visit the Jersey Royal website.

So what do I suggest you do with the lovely little tubers, on the island they are consumed simply served in a bowl with golden Jersey butter. I have a taste for freshly boiled Jersey Royals with some cold smoked Jersey butter and coarse sea salt if I’m feeling a little culinary inclined. You can serve them with Spring Lamb, they as you would expect excellent with simply grilled fish, but here is my favourite, a nice early summer recipe to look forward to, healthy, full of flavour and texture and very easy to make.

Roasted Jersey Royal Salad

Roasted Jersey Royal, Chickpea and Sweet Red Pepper Salad                    serves 4

The wonderful sweet flavour of the potatoes is complimented by the rosemary, the slightly smoky charred peppers, the salty olives and the crunch of the chickpeas all bound in a simple but fragrant vinaigrette.

500 gr Early season Jersey Royal potatoes, thoroughly washed

2 large sweet red peppers

100 gr ripe On-the-vine Cherry Tomatoes

A small tin ( around 100 gr ) of Chickpeas, washed and drained

8 tablespoons quality Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

1 teaspoon Clover Honey

1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

2 Cloves of Garlic

1 small Chilli, seeds removed

A large sprig of Rosemary

A small bunch of Flat Leaf Parsley, washed and picked mixed salad leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

A heavy-duty plastic food bag

 Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C / Gas mark 5. Place your peppers in an oven proof dish and bake until the skins to blacken. ( You can achieve the same results under a grill or salamander in a shorter period of time ). In a medium sized saucepan place the Jersey Royal potatoes and cover with cold water. Add half a teaspoon of salt, place on the hob and bring to the boil, simmer gently for five minutes. Remove from the heat and drop into a bowl of ice-cold water. Drain thoroughly and place in an oven tray. Toss with two tablespoons of the olive oil, one crushed clove of garlic, the rosemary sprig broke up into pieces and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for thirty to forty minutes until the skins are crispy.

Meanwhile, place the charred peppers in the food bag, seal and allow to cool. As the peppers cool the self-generated steam will loosen the blackened skins. When cool remove from the bag and place on a chopping board and using a small sharp knife scrape off the skin. Do not worry if you cannot remove it all a few blackened pieces add a smoky flavour to the salad. Remove seeds and any membranes and slice. Slice tomatoes in half.

Wipe a medium sized glass bowl with the second piece of garlic that has been cut in half. In the bowl dissolve a good pinch of the salt into the sherry vinegar then add a good grind of black pepper, the honey and mustard. Whisk in the oil. Immediately before serving toss the chickpeas, tomatoes, pepper slices and parsley in the dressing. Place over four bowls of mixed salad leaves drizzling with any remaining dressing, top with crisp roasted potatoes and enjoy.

Pictures courtesy of the States of Jersey.

If you enjoy this Jersey Royal recipe here is another  I wrote for Frost Magazine.

https://about.me/cgott