Say Kimchi!*

As promised, here is my super quick and easy, not too spicy kimchi, for wimpy Western palates.

For those not in the know, kimchi is a fermented vegetable side dish originating in Korea (they eat it with every meal). It’s usually knock-your-socks-off-spicy and a little bit stinky (trust me you get used to it). My version lets you choose a spice level you’re comfortable with. The stinkiness comes from the fermentation process, which is what preserves the kimchi and makes all those wonderfull prebiotics that get the healthy eating fanatics so worked up!

Apparently eating chillies can increase your life span by up to 13%, coupled with the benfits of fermented food, I’m surprised Koreans don’t live forever.

According to the internet (and scientists, presumably) the benefits of eating kimchi on a regular basis include:

  • aiding digestion and preventing constipation
  • regulating cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • high in vitamins and antioxidants
  • aiding weightloss
  • encouraging a healthy immune system

Though be warned, it’s made from cabbage, so it can give you some fearsome wind. Don’t eat it for the first time with people you can’t comfortably let rip in front of.

Any large supermarket will stock the ingredients needed, though if you live near an oriental supermarket it’s worth buying the authentic chilli powder and some rice vinegar.

Fish sauce, gochugaru and rice vinegar.

The chilli powder (centre) will be labelled as “red pepper powder” or “gochugaru”, look for the “coarse” type. Gochugaru is a lot milder than regular chilli powder, so it’s used in quite large quantities. If you can’t get any – substitute with normal chilli flakes, but make sure you measure it in teaspoons, not tablespoons! Rice vinegar can be replaced with malt vinegar or distilled (white) vinegar. As for radishes, you can use mooli/daikon radish or a packet of normal salad radishes The long ones are easier to prepare.

Easy Mild Kimchi

  • 1 large chinese cabbage also known as “Chinese leaf”, “pak choi”, or “Napa cabbage” OR a sweetheart cabbage
  • 1 medium sized carrot
  • 1 mooli/daikon radish OR a pack of salad radishes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • Gochugaru powder: 2 tablespoons = mild, 4 tablespoons = medium, 6 tablespoons = hot OR chilli flakes 2 teaspoons etc.
  • 60g or ¼ cup of coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce (found in the Thai food section of the supermarket)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar OR malt or distilled vinegar

You will need a large mixing bowl or Tupperware type container (this is a better option as they have lids), a colander and a very sharp knife.

1. Cut up the cabbage into medium sized chunks and rinse well in the colander.

2. Put the cabbage into the container and sprinkle with the salt. Cover with water. Some recipe books tell you not to use tap water, but I find you get a better fermentaion with tap water rather than bottled. Leave the cabbage at room temperature for at least 24 hours, but no longer than 48 hours.

3. Drain off the brine, reserving half of it (you will need it later). While the cabbage is draining, in the same container, mix the chill powder, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar and sugar into a paste.

4.Cut the carrot, radish and spring onions into matchsticks and add to the paste.

5. Add the cabbage and mix well. Cover with equal amounts of fresh water and reserved brine.

6. Taste a bit of cabbage. If you think you can handle  more spice, add a bit more chilli. Otherwise, put the lid on and leave to ferment at room temperature for three days (unless the room is hot, in which case find somwhere a bit cooler, but not the fridge). It is essential that you stir the kimchi every day, or the top layer will go grey and weird. After three days put it in the fridge. Your kimchi is now ready to eat.

Eaten straight away, it has a zingy fresh flavour. With time the flavours mature and calm down, and the kimchi will develop a sourish fermented flavour. Serve shredded like coleslaw (it’s fantastic with melted cheese, burgers and hotdogs), as a side dish for Korean or Chinese food, or chopped and fried to add to stir fries.

A classic meal would be Kimchi Fried Rice, really quick and easy to prepare. Allowing a couple of heaped serving spoons of kimchi per person, slice finely, drain well, fry in a little oil until caramelised around the edges. Mix into cooked rice, moisten with a little kimchi juice and gochugaru paste and top with a fried egg.

*When taking a photo in Korea, instead of “cheese” you say “kimchi”!

Autumn Musing and Soup

Personally I’m glad when the season changes, bringing saner temperatures, colourful leaves and an abundant harvest. It feels good to wear boots, scarves and gloves again and to have an excuse to indulge in the rich and hearty cold weather foods that seem a little out of place during the summer. What could be better than a brisk walk along the canal, followed by a steaming mug of hot chocolate and the expectation of a huge bowl of beef stew and dumplings with plenty of Worcester sauce?

I’m looking forward to sharing some rather filling and indulgent recipes over the coming weeks! Let’s start with a family favourite – Tortellini Soup, actually Small Boy doesn’t like it, but everyone else does. I can’t remember where it came from, maybe the Sainsbury’s Magazine? Anyway, depending on how big a serving, you could enjoy it as a light or a main meal. Because of the pasta you don’t really need bread with it. Vegetarian if you choose a meat free pasta.

Tortellini Soup   serves 4-6

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 litre veg or chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes or passata
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 180g frozen or fresh peas
  • 250g pack of tortellini or other filled pasta
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil (optional)

Finely dice the carrots and onion. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the carrots and onion for 5 mins.

Add the stock and tomatoes (I always whizz the tomatoes in a food processor to break them down a little) add the garlic either chopped or crushed. Simmer until the carrots are almost soft (aroung 10 to 15 mins, sometimes longer). Add the peas and simmer until the veg is all cooked through.

Add the pasta and cook for the length of time indicated on the packet, you may need to add a little extra water at this point. When the pasta is cooked through –  stir in the basil and serve.



May Contain Nuts

It has been implied and not without reason, that I tend to focus on sweet rather than savoury dishes. I can’t help it, sweet toothed doesn’t even begin to describe my obsession with the sweet and sugary. Not that I can’t appreciate savoury food, a top notch roast dinner for example, a selection of British cheeses or a good spicy curry. It’s just that I have to have redcurrant jelly with the meat, a nice bit of fruit with the cheese, mango chutney with the curry and so on. I prefer sweet wines and take sugar in my tea, it’s just the way I am.

Facebook follower and dear friend K. suggested maybe trying to post something for those (un-natural freaks) who aren’t that keen on cake!

So here goes.

This is a vegetarian dish that takes a little preparation but is super tasty. You can serve it as a main course (of course) but it also works really well as a side dish for roast chicken. I lurve it with lots of gravy, mashed potato and green peas, though I guess you could opt for a salad or a tomato sauce.

Mushroom And Herb Nut Roast

Serves 6-8   Based on a recipe in Jekka McVicars Herb book

  • olive oil
  • 150g brown or white rice
  • 275ml boiling water from the kettle
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 110g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 110g breadcrumbs
  • 175g mixed nuts (you can buy packs of mixed chopped nuts, these are ideal)
  • 3 tbsp chopped herbs eg. parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (lovage is good if you can get hold of some, but only use a teaspoon as it’s very strong)
  • sunflower seeds for decoration (optional)
  • seasoning

Start by cooking the rice in the hot water with the teaspoon of salt. Cook in a covered saucepan on a low heat until cooked through.

Meanwhile, grate the carrots, chop the veg and herbs and roughly grind the nuts in a food processor.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. add the onions, mushrooms, carrot, coriander and soy sauce and cook on a medium heat for 10 mins.

In a large bowl or in the pan if you want to save on washing up, combine the nuts, breadcrumbs, rice and herbs with the vegetable mix. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

You can cook it in a loaf tin, casserole dish or in individual ramekins. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and bake in the oven at 180ºc (160 fan / gas mark 4) until well browned on top (up to 45 mins).


Vintage Recipe: Saagwalla Dhal the Comfort Curry

Does 1993 count as vintage? It’s 23 years ago, so not exactly contemporary. Let’s say sort of vintage then.

One of the most useful books to come my way has been “Indian Cooking”, published in 1993 by Parragon. You can tell how well used it is by the enormous grease stains on the pages!Just a cheapy discount book from now defunct Woolworths (a moments silence please) It can’t have cost very much as we never had much money to spare in the early day’s of marriage. Unlike many cheaply produced books this one is full of delicious, authentic and reliable recipes and well worth buying if you see it in a charity shop somewhere.

Recently my poor dear mother had to have most of her insides taken out (seriously, they took everything going spare) and was indisposed for a good few weeks. Feeling weak and nauseous, food was a difficult subject. When asked if there was anything at all she imagined being able to stomach, she said the only thing she could think of was the “lentil” curry I had served up several years ago. Great on two counts: I was going to make it anyway and Wow! What an ego boost, Mother doesn’t give praise lightly!

So my dear Crumbies, tonight I share a recipe that is healthy, tasty, vegetarian and a curry night stalwart. Rather than lentils, it calls for moong dhal (skinless, split mung beans) which have more substance than lentils but are much nicer than split peas. I haven’t fed anyone who didn’t like this curry, even the children love it! Moong Dhal are available from the larger supermarkets or try your local Asian corner shop.

Sagwalla Dhal  serves 6-8

  • 6oz (170g) moong dhal (soaked for 2 hours)
  • 2 heaped tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 green chilli, cut in half (remove the seeds if you want it milder)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ tsp ground tumeric
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a couple of tinned tomatoes)
  • 20 floz (570ml) warm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 or 2 dries red chillies, chopped or crushed chilli flakes to taste
  • a pack of fresh baby spinach or 4oz (100g) frozen
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (optional)

You remembered to soak the dhal right? You can get away with only 1 hr if you’re short of time. Drain well.

Melt the ghee/butter in a large pan (if using butter, add a splash of oil to stop it burning) Fry the onion, green chilli and cinnamon till the onion is lightly browned. Add the tumeric, garam masala, chilli powder and cumin. Fry for 1 min.

Add the dhal, turn the heat down a little and fry for about 5 mins, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook for 3 mins. Add the water, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 mins, stirring now and then.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a seperate frying pan and cook the mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add the garlic and dried chilli, cook till the garlic is lightly browned. Add the spinach and cook gently for 5 mins or until thoroughly wilted.

Add the spinach to the dhal and cook for a few more minutes. Stir in some chopped coriander leaves if you like.

This is a very forgiving curry, it will happily sit aroung waiting for late guests and any leftovers freeze well. I love to serve it with homemade roti or chapatties, though rice or naan bread will do just as well. Enjoy!

Saag is a Punjabi word for spinach.