Quick pickles are very fashionable now, and why not! They are both tasty and healthy. This is a Chinese recipe that produces a lovely, sweet-sour quick pickle of cucumber. Leave it to soak and pickle in the vinegar mix while you make the rest of the meal, and it will be ready to serve when you are calling the family to the table.
The great thing about congee is that, once you have perfected the cooking method, it can be made with a wide range of lentils, beans, grains and rice. Rice congee is the most well-known, but congees can be made from rice mixed with other grains, beans and lentils, or made without rice at all.
Today we made a clean-out-the-pantry congee, and it is delicious. It was made with lentils, burghul, millet and rice. In the photo it is topped with roasted cauliflower, green herby sauce, herbs, roasted cauliflower leaves, sesame oil and pickles. But you can top your congee with whatever your heart desires. That is the beauty of congee.
Remember to cook congee on the lowest possible heat, so it is barely simmering. Use a heat diffuser, especially for the second half of cooking, otherwise it may stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. I prefer to cook it in a Chinese clay pot – I believe the flavour is superior, and I keep my pot for congee only.
I love congee made in a Chinese clay cooking pot in the middle of winter, cooked on a lazy Sunday afternoon. A large batch is sometimes cooked and stored in the fridge. In this way it is available night and day, for late night suppers or early morning breakfast. Congee was once a very popular dish but it has fallen out of fashion. We have been making it since 2003, and thankfully it has not fallen out of fashion in our household.
There are lots of congee recipes around – almost every Asian cookbook you pick up has one in it. I first cooked it at home as I loved the late night congee in Sydney’s China Town. So good. Short grain rice is best. One cup of rice made a huge amount – enough for 4 – 6 bowls of it. So be careful the first time that you make it to ensure that you are not making enough for your whole suburb!!! Congee can be eaten at any time of the day – it has become a popular breakfast food for Southern Chinese and midnight snacks for Singaporeans & Malaysians. So eat it first thing, last thing, or anywhere in between.
Congee Bowls, in our household, are bowls of congee topped with a range of delicious accompaniments – herbs, tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, crispy onions and garlic, steamed beans, mushrooms, Asian greens – the list is endless and any combination can be used, depending on the season, the weather, your mood, the time of day and the available ingredients. Congee flavour is always up to you!
Congee is eaten throughout Asia, from Japan right down to Indonesia. Each one varies a little from the others, but all are made with boiled rice, lentils or beans. However, the name for this dish originated in India – from the Tamil kanji. Perhaps also from the Telugu and Kannada gañji, the Malayalam kanni and the Urdu ganji. All meaning, more or less, boiling. The earliest reference can be traced back to the Zhou dynasty (circa 1000BC). It is also mentioned in the Chinese Record of Rites (1st century AD) and noted in Pliny’s account of India circa AD77.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. You can explore more of the Retro Recipes series, our vegetarian recipes from that first blog.
Steamed tofu is the antithesis of the punchy, in-your-face flavours of my usual Indian cuisine. Almost bland, it is gloriously so, adding creamy texture to its accompaniments. In this case we use bok choi (pak choi) and a soy sauce-seasame-mirin dressing. You do have to be willing to enjoy the subtlety of flavours to appreciate this dish. It is not something that would do well on Master Chef, for example, however we love steamed tofu.
We also have a variation to this dish where shiitake and oyster mushrooms are quickly sauteed and added to the tofu. This is inspired by an incredible dish of steamed tofu and mushrooms at the Whole Earth restaurant in Chiang Mai – Three Flavour Tofu Topped with Shiitake Mushrooms.
Who does not like Summer Rolls, the South East Asian dish of crunchy ingredients wrapped in rice wrappers and served with a peanut sauce? They are so summery, refreshing and cooling.
This recipe deconstructs the Summer Rolls and turns it into a Salad. It is from Bittman’s 100 Salads. We are working our way through these and doing so has changed the way we eat quite significantly. Salads are definitely a part of our day now.
Talk about a meal in a bowl, Laksa is the bomb. Anyone who has been to S.E. Asia will have had this dish in street stalls, fragrant, hot, and spicy. The good news is, it is not so hard to make at home. Perhaps some of the optional additions that are available in roadside stalls are not common in other countries, but you can replicate the fragrance and spiciness of the dish.
In this recipe, a spice paste is made by blending the ingredients then cooking it off slowly before adding stock and other flavour enhancing ingredients. This beautiful broth is served with noodles, sprouts, herbs and other toppings.
This recipe is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.
It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Browse all of our S.E. Asian recipes and all of our Soups. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.
We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.
I call this sauce a drizzle sauce, because it can be drizzled into and over anything. When I first started making this as a dressing and a dipping sauce, it was quite unusual. That was way back in 2003. These days, Asian style dressings, broths and dipping sauces are reasonably common. This is a great recipe to play with – it makes about half a cup. Store it in the fridge and use for salads, noodles, dipping sauce, drizzle in or on soups, add a little to your bowl of miso, drip over a pile of deep fried tofu, a little over avocado on toast.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. You can see more of the Retro Recipes series, our vegetarian recipes from that first blog.
Recently in the kitchen we have renewed our love affair with miso soup. While others will tell you to spend time making stocks and broths for miso soup, and cook any number of ingredients, I have a wonderful, never-fail, 5 minute approach to making miso soup. The secret is, there is little that needs to be pre-cooked for miso soup. The most I do is to soak some cute little beancurd bows (but even the pre-soaking can be skipped), and perhaps some noodles. They soak while the kettle boils and the ingredients are sliced. Mix miso with hot water until dissolved, pour into a lovely bowl, add the thinly sliced ingredients and a few other flavour enhancers (see my post), the noodles if using, the beancurd perhaps, and sip contentedly. Deep flavours, comfort and nourishment. What more could you want?
Ottolenghi’s approach to what I consider to be his version of my miso soup (without using miso, let me be clear). Yet his is faaaar more complicated. It is a kitchen-sink style approach. Perhaps he should use miso! He considers this recipe to be a variation on Asian soups such as Thai tom yum or Vietnamese pho. The key is the stock, which must be rich and hearty, with many layers of flavour. And, miso or not, the broth is extraordinary! Hot and sour as promised. Earthy and deep, yet with a lightness too. It was a real surprise. Make double and freeze half.
He doesn’t add noodles, but you can. I recommend making double the amount of broth, make the mushroom soup as-is, then decide how to use the second half with the noodles. Mushrooms and noodles. Greens and noodles. Fried tofu and noodles.
It’s interesting to me that he doesn’t include dried shiitake mushrooms in the stock (and sliced for the soup). Dried Shiitake are a vegetarian’s best friend when it comes to dark, flavoursome broths. Anyway, this is how I make an Asian Stock that is so delicious it is worth keeping some in the fridge and freezer, and using it for whatever you are making – rice, risotto, noodles, …. Ottolenghi’s is rather similar, come to think of it. But my broth is light and summery, his is deep and earthy.
You’ve guessed it, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More. In fact, it is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.
Browse all of our Soups and all of our Mushroom recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Mid Autumn dishes.
Celebrating tomatoes, we are making tomato salads each day this week. It is the middle of Autumn and the last of the best tomatoes are available – soon the less flavoursome winter tomatoes will be available. We have been making simple, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern salads, and some more unusual ones. Today we use cherry tomatoes with green papaya in a South East Asian style salad. I hope you enjoy it.
The salad incorporates the papaya with the tomatoes along with snake beans and shredded snow peas. The dressing is sweet and added texture is given with peanuts. I like to add some crispy fried onion too, the type you can buy from Asian and Middle Eastern shops. It adds a salty textural element.
Longans are new to me, the result of a quick trip to the Asian grocer on the way home from work. Rather than the two things I wanted to come home with, I found jicama, longans, and such incredible young fresh ginger. Oh my!
Longan in Mandarin means “dragon’s eye”. Such beautiful names meanings Chinese words have.
Longans are sold fresh at the end of summer and, interestingly, their availability marks the end of the lychee season. They look a bit like lychees with white flesh, hard brown seed, a thin brown leathery shell that easily peels off, and they grow in clusters in tropical climates. But the flavour, texture and moisture content are completely different. Lychees are fleshy, juicy, and are light tasting, but longans have a thinner, drier flesh that is firm in texture with a honey like flavour, and which is deeply perfumed. Fresh longans are smaller than lychees.