This is a bit of a spur of the moment post! I rustled these up for lunch and thought they looked good enough to snap, and the pics turned out well enough that it would have been sad not to use them. So here’s a quick and tasty weekend lunch dish, as scoffed by me today 🙂
I should start by confessing to being a total noodle-head. I love them in pretty much any shape or sauce I can get my hands on – ramen noodles, chow mein noodles, Singapore noodles, Pad Thai noodles, udon noodles, Malaysian style char-grilled street noodles, even pot noodles (don’t judge me!). But I was never much good at making them myself (except for the ramen and pot varieties, obviously) and it wasn’t until I watched the way my mum sauced the egg noodles last year, and saw her tricksy way of doing it, that I finally made any myself that I was happy with. Like these!
I’ve found that these really only work with the thinnest of egg noodles, and would rather wait until they’re back in stock than use medium if that’s all the store has. And it’s not a meat heavy dish so you can buy a small cut of steak, even half of what I’d use for a strog for example. In fact, I’ve quite happily made these in a vegetarian stylee with just the broccoli and it was still tasty good. The trick is making sure the noodles themselves have enough flavour… but more about that later 🙂
PS – I think the writing up of how to make these actually took twice as long as actually making them!!
Beef & Broccoli Noodles
A simple, classic noodle dish that's perfect for a lazy weekend lunch.
1 packet Broccoli spears (if you can’t get spears, broccoli florets cut up so that they’re fairly thin work too)
Rump steak, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
Oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee or bust!)
Dark soy sauce
Corn / vegetable oil
Chinese chilli oil, optional
Salt for seasoning
Knorr chicken powder, optional
Halve any large broccoli spears, or cut up your broccoli florets, and rinse under cold water.
Skin the garlic clove and put it in the garlic crush, but don’t crush it yet, and set aside.
Thinly slice the rump steak. Fill the wok with enough water to cook the noodles in, and heat on a high heat until it’s boiling. Fill the mixing bowl about 2/3rds full of cold water and set near the sink.
When the water in the wok is boiling, pop the noodles in and cook per the packet instructions (usually for about 3 minutes) using chopsticks , or cooking tongs, to loosen the noodles up as they’re cooking.
When they’re ready, pour out over a sieve and drain the noodles, shaking as much loose water out, and then tip the noodles into the bowl of cold water and leave them for just now.
Dry the wok and then set it back over a medium-high heat with a slug of corn oil. When the oil is hot, add the broccoli and stir fry for about 3 minutes, adding salt to season and a little scattering of chicken powder if you’re using it (I like my stir fried broccoli a little browned at the edges so tend to whack the heat up during this bit).
After the 3 minutes or so is up (or you have enough brown bits!) add just enough tap water to cover the bottom of the wok. Put a lid on the wok and leave it on the heat until the water has all disappeared – this should steam the hard crunch out of the broccoli without over-cooking it. Try a bit and if it’s still too crunchy for you then add a wee bit of water and steam again. When your broccoli is cooked to taste, remove to a plate or bowl and set aside.
Add a little more corn oil to the wok, crush your garlic into it and then throw in the rump steak quickly, so that the garlic doesn’t have a chance to burn. You really just want to flash fry the steak and should only need to fry it for 2 to 3 minutes, or until nothing (or almost nothing if you’re more of a medium-rare person) looks raw or bloody.
Add a couple of dashes of soy sauce and move everything around the wok for another minute, then empty the steak and soy sauce over the broccoli.
Put the wok back on the heat, add a little more corn oil, and while that’s heating pour the noodles back into the sieve and drain off all the cold water. Shake to get rid of any lingering water before adding the noodles to the wok. Chilling the noodles before trying to cook with them just stops them from clagging together and becoming an immovable mass of noodle that you can’t work with. For some reason, cold noodles are just easier to move around. Bit like how you really can’t make fried rice with hot rice, just cold. But I digress!
Now we get to the saucing of the noodles, the Chinese way, or maybe it’s just my Chinese mum’s way, but it works!
Pour some corn oil over the noodles, it helps the noodles to move and not clag together.
Add a few good glugs of oyster sauce and some Chinese chilli oil (fifi says... if you're not used to this, be sparing at first as it can be quite potent. You can always add more later if you need to, which is far easier than trying to get the chilli out!).
Take your chopsticks, or tongs if you find them easier to use, to the noodles and just shoogle them about to coat the noodles evenly with sauce while you’re reheating them (fifi says... my mum actually dons the trusty CSI gloves and gets her hands stuck into the mass of noodles to do the shoogling. I haven't been quite that brave. Yet...).
Add more oyster sauce and/or chilli oil if you think it needs it, and shoogle well again. If the noodles start sticking together then add a little more corn oil. Taste again, and if you think it still needs more sauce then have at it. Basically, sauce to taste. And keep shoogling them about in the wok until they are hot (heat hot, not chilli hot).
Share the noodles between two bowls (tongs are really good for getting a grip on the by now slippery noodles), top with the still warm broccoli and steak, and tuck in!
I have a couple of signature dishes, things I’ve been making ever since I learnt to cook and have fed my friends for years. If I could only pick one though, this would be it. There’s just something about the rich and silky sauce that just warms my heart (and my tummy!). And not just the strog that I cook. My favourite ever strog was from the Hong Kong Football Club away back when I was sulky teenager in the 70’s, and then Jimmy’s Kitchen (also in Hong Kong). The two dishes were so similar that I’m still convinced Jimmy’s knicked the HKFC’s chef!
There must a dozen variations, and then some, on how to cook this though. I remember having a pretty lengthy discussion with a friend at school about whether it should or shouldn’t have paprika, and whether the sauce should be beige or orange (it was an all girl’s school, so it wasn’t like we had any boys to talk about…). A recent article over at lovefood.com looks at even more ways to make this, as well as its history, and how it’s not Russian but French.
This is also my ex-flatmate’s favourite, who I used to catch eating the leftovers cold, off the serving ladle, straight out of the pot! I took it as a compliment, and still cook it for him when he visits 🙂
As to why it’s my favourite… did I mention the rich and silky sauce, or “jup”, a Chinese catch-all word for all things saucey and gravy that you will ALWAYS hear my family asking for more of, including Hubby (I suspect that may have been the first Chinese word he picked up from us!) And the fat little bites of succulent mushroom. And the melt in the mouth tender strips of steak. And… and… do you really need any more reasons than that?
And now for a wee health warning… This dish shines because it’s cooked in butter. Full fat, tasty, butter. You can use cooking oil instead, but prepare to be totally underwhelmed if you do because oil is not a satisfying substitute for butter. I’m just saying.
As a note on the serving size, I’ve noted that this feeds four, and it happily will. Three, if you’re feeding hungry people. Or, if my ex-flatmate is involved… two. At a push.
My absolute signature dish, savoury and satisfying on so many levels.
Slice up the onion, I think chunkier onion slices work best with this sauce so don’t fret if they’re not cheftasticly thin. Same goes for the mushrooms, wipe them clean and then slice them so that you get four thick slices per shroom.
Slice the rump steak up, but unlike the veg, slice thinly.
Then mix together the flour, mustard powder and a generous grinding of black pepper in a bowl and roll the steak pieces in it until they are all well coated. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.
In a large frying pan, or wok, melt some butter over a medium heat and then fry the onion until its translucent.
Add the mushrooms, and a sprinkle of salt, and cook for another couple of minutes.
Then remove the onions and mushrooms to a plate, and return the wok to the heat with some more butter.
When the butter starts to bubble, shake the excess flour/mustard from the steak before adding and turn up the heat. Don’t worry if some of the loose flour/mustard goes in as it will help thicken the sauce, you just don’t want all of the flour/mustard leftovers in there.
The steak will initially stick together, in which case a meat fork or chopsticks are really helpful to shoogle the steak up and separate the pieces. Treat this like a stir fry and brown the steak off quickly to keep it tender.
When the steak is browned off (I like to stop while it's still pink in the middle) turn the heat down to medium and add the tomato puree, stirring it in so that it coats all the steak pieces. Give it a minute or two before adding the vegetables back in. Put the kettle on at this point, and when its boiled pour half a pint’s worth over a stock cube, and then pour it into the pan to cover the steak and veg mix. Stir well before turning the heat back up.
When the liquid starts to bubble up, turn the heat down again so that the sauce is gently simmering. Taste, and season with salt if required, and then leave it to simmer away for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes is up, add the lemon juice, stir through and then take the pan off the heat. Stir in the sour cream (or creme fraiche) before dishing up generously over boiled rice.
Sprinkle with parsley if you’re poshing it up 😉 and then tuck in!
Easter weekend and then my birthday have conspired to throw my posting timetable a little off track… Hoping to resume normal service this Sunday! In the meantime, feast your eyes on these seriously cute cupcakes that Hubby rustled up to celebrate (or commiserate) me turning another year older 🙂
Being a savoury tooth rather than sweet, I prefer my cake-age to be of the unfussy variety. It took me forever to persuade Hubby that a Victoria sponge really was my idea of a good time, whilst death by multiple varieties of chocolate really wasn’t! So this year I woke up to the smell of these baking, and they were utterly divine. The perfect balance of buttercream and strawberry jam in the middle allowed the simple tastiness of the sponge to shine through. Just perfect with a nice cup of tea…
200g Stork (the tub, not the block), or margarine. Don’t be tempted to use butter. Just don’t. If you want a perfect sponge, go Stork.
240g self-raising flour
4 large eggs
1tsp good quality vanilla extract (I use a variety with vanilla seeds in, it’s lovely)
(And, if you’re making the Victoria Sponges here and not just cupcakes, a jar of your favourite jam)
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F.
Begin by creaming the Stork margarine using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or the electric mixer. Do this until the margarine is very soft and pale in colour, it should take a minute or two.
Once the Stork is nice and soft, simply tip the rest of your ingredients into the mixer’s bowl or a mixing bowl and mix until everything is incorporated, starting on a low speed to minimise the mess. That’s really all there is too it, there’s no need to separate your wet and dry ingredients, or fold anything, it’s just that simple.
As a note, don’t be tempted to over mix the ingredients, you really just want them blended, with no visible lumps. Too much mixing will result in a tougher batter, and you’ll end up with dense cakes that aren't light and fluffy. We don’t want that!
After everything’s blended, just spoon the batter into the muffin cups – this recipe makes about 12 good-sized cupcakes, and set the tray into the oven, on the middle shelf. You don’t want to get the tin too close to the top or the tops of the cupcakes will brown over-much.
Now, here’s the only really fiddly part. Since you’re baking on a low heat, you’ll need to keep an eye on the cupcakes. The recipe guideline states about 15 minutes cooking time, but I find that this is a good starting point for when you should first check their progress. I find around 20-22 minutes to be more accurate. You can tell they’re done when, if you insert a toothpick into the centre of one, it comes out clean. If not, just add a few more minutes at a time, and monitor them until they’re set.
Once they’re ready, remove the tin from the oven, and allow them to sit for about 30 minutes before you remove them to your sheet of aluminium foil or greaseproof paper to continue cooling. This can take an hour or more, so be patient.
While it’s cooling, you can prepare the buttercream frosting. As a note, I find that frosting is a very subjective area. Some people like a little, some people like a lot. The recipe below makes enough for, on average, about twice the amount of cupcakes you’ll be making, so you can easily halve the recipe. I've tried it, and found that I was panicking about running out of frosting on the last few cupcakes. Too much is always better than not enough!
As with the cupcakes above, this is a great “basic” frosting that’s very easy to add other flavours to. The version here is vanilla.
500g (one box) icing sugar
250g (one block) unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla extra
The most important thing in getting an excellent buttercream is having the butter be very, very soft. Ideally you can leave it out overnight, or take it out first thing in the morning for making later. If you forget, you can soften it in the microwave, on the lowest setting, running it for about 10 seconds at a time.
It needs to be soft, but NOT melted. Any melting and your buttercream won’t turn out right, so be very careful if you’re using this method.
To begin, beat the butter until soft and pale, for about a minute or so. Then, add your icing sugar; batches of a third at a time seem about right. This will be messy, so be prepared to accept that. Cleaning up is all part of the fun, right? Right! After all of the sugar is blended, add the vanilla and beat until fluffy. This will probably take longer than you think, but about five minutes is a good guide.
You’ll know that it’s set when you can spoon a bit up and it’s firm, yet fluffy. Be aware that the sugar and fats in the butter will firm up once it settles and make a really pleasing firm outer layer with a soft, fluffy icing beneath.
Now that your cupcakes have cooled, and the frosting is ready to go, it’s time to assemble. If you’re making them as in the picture, just cut them in half, about halfway up or a little higher (they’re easier to stack if you cut about a 1/3 of the way from the top).
Spread the bottom half with a layer of your jam of choice. I used strawberry in my version. Now, spread a good layer of buttercream frosting on the underside of the top half, and then simply sandwich the two halves together.
Once you’ve assembled them all, set them back on your cooling sheet, and dust the tops with a good dusting of icing sugar. Voila!
The Lemon version
For the sponge, add a few teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest to the batter, along with about a teaspoon of lemon extract (in addition to the vanilla). I prefer a nice, natural, Sicilian Lemon Extract for an authentic lemony goodness.
To the frosting, add another teaspoon of the vanilla extract (in addition to the vanilla), and a few drops of yellow food colouring at the end. You’ll want to use this sparingly, as a pale yellow is generally more pleasing than a bright, glaring version.
That’s all there is to it, and the lemon cupcakes turn out light, fluffy, and as Summery-fresh as you could hope for. Enjoy!
Before I got married this was my go to dish at least twice a week (ok, maybe three times a week… don’t judge me!). You could be forgiven for thinking it was because it’s so easy to make – I swear it takes longer to clean up afterwards than it takes to make it – and you’d be partly right. But the fact that it’s insanely tasty and, with the abundance of cherry tomatoes and rocket, really fresh is what elevates it from just ‘an easy supper’ to a ‘a delicious and easy supper’! And whenever Hubby goes back to the States without me, my tastebuds revert back to singleton status and it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll be getting stuck into a bowl of this before his plane has even reached the Atlantic!
Green and red pesto both work with this dish (Hubby prefers red). I also tend to use the whole packet of rocket for two people, but that’s only because I love rocket (I am reliably informed that in America it’s called arugula). And if there are any leftovers (big big if in my household!) this is good cold, like a pasta salad, for lunch the next day.
I would love to credit this properly but I can’t for the life of me remember which foodie mag I found it in I’m afraid, but it’s so easy to throw together that there really wasn’t any need to hold onto the recipe.
By the way, please bear with me as I practice my food photography… Today’s attempt is brought to you by Super Macro and standing really close to the counter 🙂
Chorizo Pasta with Lashings of Cherry Tomatoes and Rocket
My go-to pasta dish. It's quick and SO tasty, serving up taste well beyond the effort it takes to make.
1 whole Chorizo sausage (The dried kind. This recipe uses the big U-shaped ones, so use two if you’re getting the smaller links).
1 pack Cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 packet of Rocket
1 1/2 tbsp Pesto
Olive oil for cooking
Penne or Fusili pasta
Salt for seasoning
Bring a large saucepan of salted water up to boiling before adding your pasta to it. Set the timer according to the pasta’s instructions and cook until al dente (usually around 10 minutes).
While the pasta is cooking, halve the cherry tomatoes and cut the chorizo into bite-sized pieces – I usually slice into pound coin sized pieces and then halve them again. Don’t forget to peel the chorizo casing off first! if you don’t it’s still edible, but a little chewier than it should be (says the voice of experience…)
When the pasta has cooked, drain it and set to one side. In the same saucepan, heat the oil and brown the chorizo for 1 or 2 minutes.
Then add the cherry tomatoes for about 1 minute, or until the skin is just beginning to break, before sloshing in a generous slug of balsamic vinegar and salt to season.
Next add the cooked pasta and the pesto, and stir it all up until the pasta is well coated in everything.
Finally, turn off the heat and add the rocket, stirring it all up again, and let the heat of the dish wilt the rocket a little before serving it up.
It’s Spring! Although last week felt more like summer and next week is meant to feel like winter… but according to the calendar, it is Spring, officially! So let’s celebrate with some lamb, glorious, lamb 🙂 I really do think it’s my favourite red meat, and not just because roast lamb is an excuse to eat mint sauce… Of all the ways to cook it, though, this is a favourite.
Curry and lamb work so well together, and what I love about this curry is how wonderfully aromatic it is. And like so many curries, all the hard work is up front, but the meatballs are so deliciously moreish that it’s worth all the prep work, and then some!
The original recipe is from an old and much splattered copy of Delicious. The version I’m sharing is tried and tested and adapted to make prepping a little lazier, but no less tasty for it.
Lamb Kofta Curry
A glorious and unabashedly aromatic curry that'll win over even those people who don't (usually) eat lamb. There won't be any leftovers!
2 medium-hot red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
2.5cm fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 pint/500ml lamb stock, hot
7.5cm piece cinnamon stick
8 green cardamom pods, cracked open
50g creamed coconut (Bart’s do four individual sachets in a box, which I can highly recommend)
500g lean lamb mince
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, plus extra leaves to garnish
1 medium egg, beaten
Sunflower oil for cooking
Salt for seasoning
2 dried curry leaves, crumbled (optional)
Prep before you start
Finely chop the onions, mince the garlic and grate your ginger (fifi's top tip - don't forget to use frozen ginger to make grating the stuff so much easier!) Get those CSI gloves on and de-seed and finely chop the red chillies, then remove the gloves carefully and set aside as you’ll need them again later. Measure out your spices into a small bowl – coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala and cayenne pepper.
Heat some oil in the stewpot before adding the onions and garlic, and fry gently for 7-10 minutes until they are lightly browned.
Then add the red chillies, spices and a little salt, and cook gently for another 5 minutes.
Turn the heat off and remove half the fried onion mixture to the mixing bowl and leave it to cool. Leave the other half in the stewpot as this will form the base of your sauce.
While things are cooling, finely chop up the fresh coriander.
Once the fried onion mixture is cool, add the lamb mince, chopped coriander, beaten egg and a little salt into the mixing bowl with it. Get those CSI gloves back on, and then use your hands to mix everything in the bowl together (fifi's top tip - vinyl gloves will save your hands from succumbing to the spices and turning a not very fetching shade of yellow!)
Now, if you want to check the seasoning of the lamb and spice mixture, cook a wee bit in the frying pan and taste. Adjust seasoning if you think it needs it. Once you've made these a few times you may not feel the need, or want, to do this bit. I don’t any more 🙂
Roll the lamb and spice mixture into meatballs, about golf ball sized, and set them onto a baking tray. Once you’ve made them all, pop the tray into the fridge for about half an hour to firm the meatballs up a little.
Take the meatballs out of the fridge and heat some oil in a heavy-based saucepan before frying off the meatballs – it usually takes me about 3 batches as I don’t like to crowd the pan. You just want to seal the meatballs and get a little colour on them, not cook them through. Place the fried off meatballs onto some kitchen roll to blot the worst of the grease.
While you’re frying off the meatballs, it’s time to get the sauce going. Add the ginger, tomato purée, lamb stock, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, coconut (and curry leaves if you’re using them) to the remaining onion chilli spice mix in the stewpot and bring it all up to a gentle simmer.
When all the meatballs are fried off, drop them gently into the simmering sauce. Partially cover with the lid, and then simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring gently every now and then. After this, the sauce should have reduced and thickened a little, and the meatballs should have set.
If you’re planning to freeze and eat later, this is where you should turn the heat off, spoon the lot into a plastic container and leave to cool before putting it in the freezer.
If you’re planning to eat it now (or reheating what you’ve thawed out), put the lid on the stewpot and let it simmer away for another 15-20 minutes. If it’s looking a little watery, I crank the heat right up for a couple of minutes or until sauce is looking more robust.
Serve with boiled rice, and garnish with some fresh coriander. I defy you to leave any meatballs standing…