Tteokbokki for beginners

There isn’t really anything in Western cuisine that can be compared to tteokbokki. If you have ever tried mochi, it’s sort of similar, but chewier and usually savoury. The texture can be something of a surprise to an unaccustomed palate, but if you like it, you’ll find them incredibly moreish.

‘Tteok’ just means a rice cake, nothing like the crispy ones we are used to, but one made from glutinous rice flour, which is mixed to a paste and then steamed. Tteokbokki literally means “fried rice cakes”, but they don’t have to be fried. If you have ever watched a Korean Drama, the characters usually visit a street stand at some point, to buy a tray of tteokbokki in a red, spicy sauce.

You won’t find them in a regular supermarket unless there is a large Korean population in your town. Instead search for an Asian supermarket, there will likely be one in your nearest city centre. Coventry, the city nearest me, has at least four in the centre and one out of town.

Fresh is best, if you can only get frozen, let them thaw out first. If you try to cook from frozen they will split. Don’t try to fry them in a pan that isn’t non-stick, because they stick, BIG TIME. Judy Joo’s suggestion to use a hot grill instead saves a lot of bother, and ruined frying pans. Oh, and you can get pots of microwaveable instant tteokbokki as well, I love it!

Easy Crispy Tteokbokki serves 2

  • 225g cylindrical rice cakes (Tteok or dduk)
  • 1tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes, preferably Korean gochugaru
  • Pinch of salt
  • toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the rice cakes.

When they float to the top they are cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl.

Add the oils, chilli, and salt and stir to coat evenly. You might need a bit more sesame oil if they look a bit dry.

Spread evenly on a baking tray. Cook under a hot grill for about five minutes, turning once during cooking, until the outside is beginning to blister.

Divide between serving dishes and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Eat as they are, but they’re even better with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Toffee Apple Flapjacks

Picnic season is upon us. Pack your blanket, waterproofs, swimming costume, sun screen, umbrella, wellies, sun hat, a flask of tea and let’s go!

The British weather certainly keeps things interesting! Anyone who has taken a break at the seaside will recall the biting Atlantic winds, sandy sandwiches and sitting huddled in the car while it pours with rain, because there’s nowhere else to go. We can have snow in April, balmy days in Bournemouth in the winter and everything else in between. Sometimes the sun shines (“Phew, what a scorcher!”) Be prepared for anything, but don’t let it stop you getting out and having fun!

This year I bought Mr Crumbs membership of the National Trust as an anniversary present and we are trying to tick of as many places as possible before it runs out. Thankfully not having to pay to get in means we can take advantage of the excellent cafês and tea shops instead of having to eat sarnies on a bench in the rain, which is nice. But there is something rather romantic about a traditional picnic in beautiful surroundings, so I’m on the lookout for recipes and ideas for picnic food that it easy to prepare, easy to eat and (most importantly) travels well! These toffee apple flapjacks fit the bill nicely, even Eldest Son who is not keen on flapjacks raved about these. Simply change the oats to gluten free oats, for a gluten free option.

Toffee Apple Flapjacks

  • 3 dessert apples
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 130g toffees (I used Werthers toffee, because it’s softer than a lot of other brands and is easier to cut up)
  • 140g butter
  • 140g golden syrup
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 250g rolled oats
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°c/160 fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line a square cake tin or traybake tin.

Peel, core and chop the apples. Put in a small saucepan with the lemon juice and caster sugar, simmer gently until soft. Puree till smooth. Chop the toffees into smallish chunks. A greased knife or scissors will work best.

Measure out the oats into a large bowl. Put the butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Pour the butter mixture and apple puree onto the oats and mix well. Stir in the toffee pieces.

Scrape everything into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 20 mins, until golden brown on top. Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Cut into squares or bars while still slightly warm.

COTM: Simply Gluten Free

Buttered Crumbs has been gluten free for two weeks now, it’s not too bad so far, though I am missing my favourite snack foods.

Everybody needs a simple go-to recipe for a cake that can be whizzed up quickly for any occasion. For most of us it would be the humble pound cake or Victoria sponge, though I prefer my own version So I’ve been doing some experimental baking with gluten free flour.

Nowaday’s most supermarkets will stock at least one gluten free flour mix. Typically made up of rice, maize, tapioca and potato flours. I followed my own recipe, substituting Dove’s Farm GF flour for regular wheat flour. It was easy to use, rose well, browned evenly and tasted nice. The problem with GF flours is a tendancy to be dry and gritty, the cake wasn’t dry but it did have an unusual texture and a lack of “bite”, just sort of disappearing in the mouth rather than giving you a good chewy mouthful! Mr Crumbs enjoyed it, myself and Small Boy felt it was fine but not amazing but Eldest Son who is very sensitive to food  texture wasn’t keen at all.

Trying again, I used a 50/50 mix of ground almonds and potato flour. The result was a lovely rich tasting cake with a satisfying texture, definitlely not a sponge cake, but equally simple to make. I filled it with whipped cream and raspberry jam and everyone was happy. A word of caution, the cake is very fragile while hot so let it cool down in the tin for 20 mins before trying to take it out (carefully!)

Simple Go-To Gluten Free Cake

  • 4oz (120g) ground almonds
  • 4oz (120g) potato flour (available from health food shops like Holland and Barret)
  • 1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 6oz (180g) butter
  • 6oz (180g) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 3floz (90ml) milk

Make sure the butter is at room temperature. Grease and line one large cake tin or two sandwich tins. Pre heat the oven to 170°c (150 fan/gas mark 3)

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract.

Sift together the potato flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Gradually beat into the mixture, alternating with the milk, until all the flour and milk is incorporated into the mixture.

Divide between the cake tins and bake for around 20 minutes or until a dark golden brown on top. The cakes are not spongy to the touch so you will have to use a skewer poked into the middle to see if they are cooked through. If you’re using one big tin, check after 20 mins and cover the top with baking paper if it’s getting too brown before the middle is done.

Cool in the tin for 20 mins then very carefully turn onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Fill and decorate as required.