This was one very random concoction. You may be familiar with the Malaysian murtabak, a thin flaky flatbread folded over a mixture of meat and egg and onion. If I’m not mistaken, a few Malaysian restaurants do serve this here in London, one of them possibly being Roti King.

Anyway, I’d been reading online recently of a variant that’s becoming quite popular at the pasar malams (night markets) in the last few years – Murtabak Maggi. There’s no flatbread involved here – the meat, eggs and onions remain – instead, the carbs are provided by instant noodles (the ‘Maggi’ refers to the Maggi brand of instant noodles, known as ‘Maggi mee’). I, of course, became instantly obsessed by this and had to try this at home. The version I present below doesn’t have meat but if you’d like to add some, fry some minced meat beforehand and add to the mixture when cooled.

Murtabak Maggi

My thoughts?…. interesting. I can definitely see the appeal. I accidentally overcooked it a bit and it was a bit stiff but if I’d cooked it as an optimal tortilla (slightly soft in the centre), it would be better. I like the curry flavour. It’s not perhaps my favourite murtabak (that honour goes to the original made with the flaky flatbread) but I like that it’s quick to prepare with readily available pantry items!

Murtabak Maggi

Murtabak Maggi
Serves 1.

Take 1 packet of curry flavoured instant noodles and set aside the curry flavour packet. Boil the noodle block until al dente (Ha! Never thought I’d ever describe instant noodles as cooked to ‘al dente’). Drain the noodles and let cool. Slice one spring onion and add to the noodles. Other additions could be chopped onion, other chopped vegetables, cooked meat, etc. Add the curry flavour packet and crack in two eggs and mix everything together well.

Heat a frying pan, add a little oil and fry the mixture as you would a Spanish tortilla. It should be golden on both sides. Slice and serve with chilli sauce if desired.

Did you watch the BBC series Italy Unpacked where Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon travel together around Italy, looking at gorgeous Italian art and eating gorgeous Italian food (their first series together was Sicily Unpacked)? Yeah, two of my favourite activities, together at last. On one recent programme, they traveled to Livorno, on the coast of Tuscany, and there Locatelli cooked an incredible looking fish stew from that city. The video clip where Locatelli cooks this cacciucco can be seen here. You can see why I suddenly felt the need to make one of these fish stews the next day.

The story goes that you want at least five different types of fishes in this stew, one for each ‘C’ in the word ‘cacciucco’; Locatelli mentioned 17 in the programme but this seems a bit over the top for just two or four people! Use as many as you can get – it’ll still taste great with just two or three different types of seafood. After referring again to the video and then to online recipes, I came up with the recipe below. It’s super easy; it’s only a bit of a pain getting the variety of fish unless you have a great fishmonger nearby.

Cacciucco

Cephalopods are first cooked in a base of wine, tomato and fish broth and after their long stewing, the fishes then spend a grand total of five to ten minutes in their delicious bath to ensure that they’re not overcooked. The finished dish is full of flavour and would make a great dinner party dish as it’s quite the showstopper coming to the table. Do make sure to serve it with lots of bread to soak up the lovely broth.

Cacciucco
serves 4.

2 tbsps olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large pinches of dried chilli flakes
3 tbsps tomato paste
about a glass of red wine

1 large squid, cleaned and cut into pieces
a handful of whole prawns
assorted other fishes – I used a chunk of monkfish, the tail end of some pollack, a couple of jacks (excellent) and a small red snapper

Fishes

For fish stock:
1 onion, cut in large chunks
1 carrot, cut in large chunks
1 bay leaf
parsley stems
fish trimmings
(or 1-2 cups fish stock)

For serving:
thick slices of a good white bread (a baguette will do)
a large clove of garlic
chopped fresh parsley (optional)

First, make your fish stock. I include a quick recipe for it here but if you’ve already got fish stock, by all means, please use it! In a pot, place your onion, bay leaf, parsley stems and fish trimmings (I used trimmings from the fish I was going to use in my cacciucco and the prawn heads). Pour over about 2-3 cups water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and continue stirring for another minute. Add the squid and saute for a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and fry until it darkens slightly. Pour in the wine and let it bubble way for a bit for the alcohol to dissipate. Pour in the fish stock (I used about 2 cups) and bring to boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let simmer away for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes are up, it’s time to cook the fish! Place in the whole and larger meatier fishes first, let them have a little time in there, and add the rest of the fishes/prawns in stages. When everything is just cooked, turn off the heat.

Cacciucco Bubbling Away

Toast the bread and rub both sides with the garlic. Lay in a single layer in a serving dish. Carefully pile up the seafood onto the bread and spoon over the broth, making sure all that bread is soaked. Sprinkle with parsley if you have it.

Toasted Bread with Garlic

Serve with more of the broth on the side (dunking extra bread in it is so good).

Cacciucco

I spent a day at the Scandinavian Christmas fair late last month with Jeanne from Cooksister (the same as featured here last year and Jeanne wrote about our visit this year) and one of the many delicious things we tasted was a Norwegian fish ball soup, all hot and creamy and just the thing for the cold day. Once I got home, the memory of that soup stayed with me and I knew I had to recreate it!

Norwegian Fish Soup

It turns out fish soup is incredibly quick to put together and perfect for a cold winter’s night. As salmon was on offer at our supermarket, I only used that but you could mix and match with a number of fishes; prawns would be good too. It’s wonderfully creamy and filling and I only wonder why I’d not made it before. There are similar soups served in Sweden and Finland and I now hope to investigate the differences between them all.

Norwegian Fish Soup
serves 4.

2 large carrots
1 large leek
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups fish stock (I used a bouillon cube)
1 large potato
500g salmon fillets
100-150ml double cream
fresh dill
salt and white pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Peel and cut the carrots into chunks. Clean the leeks (slice them lengthwise), trim anything too tough and slice into 1cm half circles. Heat a pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and cook the carrots for a few minutes. Add the leeks and continue cooking until the leeks start to soften. Pour in the fish stock and bring to a boil. Peel the potato and cut into small chunks. Lower the heat, add the potato and let the whole thing simmer until the vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, cut the salmon fillets into large chunks – not too small or they’ll just fall apart in the soup later. Add the salmon chunks into the soup when the vegetables are soft. Stir gently. When the fish is cooked through, pour in the double cream and continue to simmer it all together for a few minutes (don’t bring it to a boil). Salt and pepper the soup to taste and stir through the Worcestershire sauce. Finally, add as much dill as you wish and serve with lots of crusty bread and perhaps a salad on the side.

I’m not sure how I learned about the Japanese doria, a rice gratin that’s quite popular in Japan, but it may have been while browsing recipes on the English language site of Cookpad, one of the most popular recipe sharing sites in Japan. Rice gratins. In a way they’re not too dissimilar to the Hong Kong style baked rices but y’know, with cheese. Now why haven’t I got onto that bandwagon?

As is usual with these fleeting obsessions of mine, I had to have one and I started with a bit of research on existing recipes. They’re all a combination of rice with whatever ingredients stirred or fried in, a layer of bechamel (or some other sauce) and a layer of cheese. While most Japanese recipes online are for small individual portions in cute gratin dishes, I opted to make a giant doria for us to share (and there were leftovers too).

Closeup of the Doria

It all starts with a base of fried rice or rice with some toppings. From what I can gather, most of the recipes either use ketchup as a flavouring or even curry. For my fried rice, I opted to just add a bit of soy and some chicken stock base. I had chicken and vegetables in mine.

Fried Rice Base

A layer of bechamel then goes on top of that rice. Another option would be to use Japanese curry or tomato sauce.

Bechamel on Top

Then a layer of grated cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and crappy mozzarella – I think parmesan is usually used but I had none at the time).

Cheese on Top and Ready for the Oven

The rice gratin had a spell in the oven and voila, I had a gloriously beautiful doria.

Out of the Oven

And oh yes, it was delicious.

Serving the Doria

While this time, I made everything from scratch for my doria, I can see how it could be created from leftovers – rice, sauces, cheeses, etc. Even random ingredients that need using up could be incorporated with the rice. I see many more dorias in my future.

I had yet another giant lemon that needed using up and turned to the internet in search of some inspiring recipe. A sale on a glut of aubergines and a recipe for them with lemon by Yotam Ottolenghi seemed just the ticket. However, I wasn’t keen on actually turning on my oven in the hot weather (the heat leaks and heats our entire living room) and adapted the recipe to use aubergines cooked over our gas stove.

Aubergines with Fried Onions and Chopped Lemon

What a great dish it turned out to be! I loved the acidity of the lemon in combination with the sharp feta, silky aubergines and sweet onions. It would make a great side dish or…y’know, just spoon it all into your mouth and call it dinner.

Aubergines with Fried Onions and Chopped Lemon

Aubergines with Fried Onions and Chopped Lemon
adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe.
serves 2-4.

2 large or 5-6 small aubergines
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small lemon or 1/2 a giant lemon
feta cheese

Barbecue or grill the aubergines over a gas flame until soft and black all over. Let cool and then peel them and chop the flesh into large chunks. Set aside.

Heat a frying pan or saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the thinly sliced onions and let cook until caramelised (this will take a while). Add the garlic and cumin and cook and stir through. Stir through the aubergine chunks until mixed well and warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Plate.

Peel and seed the lemon and chop its flesh up and scatter on top of the aubergine mixture. Likewise, crumble however much feta cheese you’d like and scatter that on top too.

Set aside and serve at room temperature.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,672 other followers