10-Minute Spicy Noodles for One (Or a Crowd)

IMG_1673My name is Joost and I am recovering cookbookaholic (I do still like a drink, though). I say recovering because I have become more selective (or plain picky) over the years. Obviously cutting out meat has limited the number of books I would be interested in, but I think following my instincts and the advice of knowledgeable foodie friends has helped me separate the wheat from the chaff. Or my kind of wheat from my kind of chaff, anyway. IMG_1678

As much as I may have been tempted by pretty covers, blurps and advertising in the past, I’ve never understood the attraction of books that promise brilliant meals in 15, 20, 30 or any number of minutes. Not because I don’t believe it can be done (although in some cases I think you’d need a professional crew doing most of the prepping for you) but mostly because I am a slow cook by nature. People who know me well have learned to add at least 15 to 20 minutes to whatever estimated time of arrival I give on my meals.

So why 10-minute noodles? Well, because even I can actually cook this dish within that time and because there aren’t many easier ways to rustle up a tasty meal when you don’t really feel like cooking. The fact that this dish is made with my favourite chilli sauce, Sriracha, is another bonus. It’s a perfect dish for one, so I am giving you the measurements for a solo eater here. Of course you can easily double, triple, etc. it. IMG_1756

This recipe is a three-stage rocket, and about as fast as one. You boil noodles, prep your veg and make the sauce, that’s it. Well, you have to mix it all together but that’s hardly an effort.

This is my take on a recipe from Vegetarian Living magazine, by the way. The cooking method is exactly the same but I did make a few changes to the sauce.


 

IMG_1679Ingredients

125 g dried noodles of your choice

Sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
dash of sesame oil
1 tbsp ginger syrup
1 tsp Sriracha sauce (or other chilli sauce)
1 tsp rice vinegar (or to taste)
small clove of garlic, or half of 1 larger one, grated
small piece of ginger, peeled and grated

Vegetables
1 small carrot (about 80-90 g unpeeled weight), peeled and roughly grated
2 small spring onions, sliced finely

1 tbsp chopped coriander (optional)

PreparationIMG_1754

– Cook the noodles according to packet instructions
– Meanwhile, whisk all the sauce ingredients together and prepare the vegetables
– Drain the noodles and tip into a bowl, add sauce and vegetables and toss.
– Sprinkle over the coriander and serve.

 

 

 

 

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Fresh and Zesty Spinach, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto

IMG_1324When I cooked my first risotto about seven years ago (a Nigella one, if I remember correctly) I was prepared not to like it. I am not a fan of rice pudding and Dutch rijstevlaai (rice flan), so making a risotto seemed almost pointless. I am so glad I did decide to get over my hang-up, because I loved it and I have been trying out risotto recipes ever since. So far my favourite was a simple mushroom risotto but this spinach, mushroom and lemon one is well on its way to become my new numero uno.

IMG_1317I got the idea of using spinach from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for risotto I tried recently. Normally I like spinach just wilted but adding the leaves at the beginning works so well in this dish. I realise garlic oil is becoming a bit of a theme on the blog (it’s liquid gold, imo) but in this case I really recommend using it. The mellow garlic flavour of the oil works really well here and there is no danger of the garlic burning, as tends to happen to me when I fry finely grated garlic in a Le Creuset pan unless I use more oil than I want to. I used a ‘summer melange’ of mushrooms and some shiitakes here. You could use any mushrooms, from everyday fo fancy in this risotto, just don’t cut them too small and do fry them before adding them to the rice.IMG_1315

As far as I’m concerned, two things are important when making a risotto: your stock should be hot and you have to start tasting your rice from about 15 minutes. How cooked you like the rice is a matter of personal preference but you won’t know how done it is unless you try it.


 

Ingredients

250 g mushrooms, chopped chunkily or not at all (depending on shape and size)
garlic oil
3 shallots, chopped finely
300 g fresh spinach, shredded
150 g risotto rice (I use arborio)
750 ml hot mushroom stock (I use stock cubes)
zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½ a lemon
salt and pepper
splash of chilli oil

Preparation

– Fry the mushrooms in garlic oil until they are almost cooked but still have bite left. Set aside.
– In a heavy-bottomed pan (not a low one, because of the bulky spinach), fry the shallots in the garlic oil for a few minutes until translucent.
– Add the spinach, stir until it’s wilted and then cook for a few minutes longer until most of the moisture has evaporated.
– Stir in the rice and cook for a few minutes, until the grains turn translucent (in places).
– Add a ladleful of hot mushroom stock and stir gently until it has been absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful, repeat, etc.
– When there are about five minutes of cooking time left, add the mushrooms and keep doing what you were doing, stirring gently.
– When the rice is done, add a good squeeze of lemon juice (go easy, you can add more later). Stir and turn off the heat.
– Stir in the lemon zest and taste to check if it needs more lemon juice.
– Season to taste and add the chilli oil. Serve.

 

 

 

Vibrant coconut ‘chicken’ curry

20140801-170946-61786383.jpgI could eat curry every day. In fact, if I lived alone, I probably would. (Don’t worry, I am very happy not living alone). It’s not just a matter of loving spicy food, which I do; for me the joy of curry is as much in the cooking as in the eating. The aromas of onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and spices frying make me disproportionately happy. An added bonus is that Indian cuisine (I want to say Asian but am not sure if that generalisation would be valid) is extremely vegetarian-friendly. Like I said in the ‘about me’ section, I believe it makes sense for vegetarians to look to the East and not the West for inspiration, provided you like Asian-style food, of course. I mean, a typical Dutch vegetarian meal would be potatoes, veg and some meat substitute or other. Not terribly exciting.

Speaking of meat substitutes, I used the ‘chicken’ bits from De Vegetarische Slager (The Vegetarian Butcher) in this curry. Their products are not actually aimed at vegetarians but at carnivores who want to cut down on meat but are not used to vegetarian cooking and need a substitute that looks, tastes and smells like meat. I know some vegetarians and vegans don’t agree, but I say any animal not eaten is a good thing, so I’m a fan. I can’t honestly say I love all their products but their chicken bits and their burgers are really good. They also do a mean sausage roll. The chicken strips are made to look and taste like the dark meat of a chicken, which was always my favourite, so these are right up my street and they work very well in this curry.

 

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This recipe is loosely based on a tofu curry from the wonderful My Darling Lemon Thyme blog. One thing that drew me to this recipe was the use of kemiri nuts (or ‘candlenuts’), that I know from Indonesian cooking. Indonesian food is very popular over here (even shameful colonial pasts have a silver lining), so ingredients are readily available from ‘tokos’, Asian shops, even in the burg I live in.

The first time I cooked this curry I used the tofu mentioned in the original recipe. Now, I’ve said in other posts that I have a love/hate relationship with tofu and I’m afraid hate won in this case. The tofu is fried and then simmered and, as much as I try to like it, the texture of soft, simmered tofu makes my skin crawl. If you do like tofu prepared this way, by all means go for it. You could also use Quorn fillet strips or fried mushrooms and I bet soy mince would also work.

This is a quick curry if you use a (stick) blender or mini chopper to make the curry paste. I use powdered lemongrass instead of fresh, here. Call it a cop-out but in dishes that don’t require really long cooking, lemon grass often stays tough, no matter how fine you chop it. I do like using it in stews, but then I just chop it roughly and fish the chunks out later. I’ve added ground galangal, a lovely spice that also reminds me of Indonesian cooking. Using dried spices makes this an even easier and quicker curry, because all you do is make the paste, fry it, add your ‘chicken’ (or whatever you’re using), coconut milk and other flavourings. Et voilà. Okay, I do fry the chicken bits before I heat them in the sauce. It’s optional but benefits the texture, imo.20140801-170944-61784297.jpg20140801-170944-61784997.jpg

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You could add peas, sugar snaps or mange-touts to the sauce as it simmers but in this case, I served the curry with an Asian-style salad. I bought beansprouts but forgot to use them (I wish I could say this doesn’t happen all the time). They do make a very nice addition if you stir them in at the last minute.


Ingredients

Curry paste

1 small red onion
5 kemiri nuts (I haven’t tried this myself but I think cashews would be fine too. In that case, I would use about two tbsp)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
piece of ginger, peeled
1 fresh chilli of your choice (I used a large red one, unseeded)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp powdered lemongrass
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp powdered galangal
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tbsp water, or as needed

Curry Sauce

‘chicken’ strips, Quorn bits, mushrooms (whatever you want to use)

dash of flavourless vegetable oil
small handful of dried kaffir lime leaves (if you can get hold of fresh ones, use about 4)
1 tsp dark brown sugar
400 ml tin of coconut milk
2/3 tbsp lime juice, or to taste
water as needed. (I fill up the empty coconut tin to about one quarter and add no more than that, sometimes less)
4 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Preparation

– Blend all the ingredients for the curry paste together.
– Add a small splash of water if the paste looks too thick.
– Fry the paste in the oil for a few minutes until fragrant.
– Add lime leaves, sugar, coconut milk and some of the water.
– Let simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.
– Add your ‘chicken’ bits and simmer for 5 more minutes, adding water if needed.
– Stir in lime juice, tasting as you add.
– Season to taste and sprinkle with coriander.
– Serve with rice.