Recipes


I first came across Hawaiian oxtail soup…well…via unconventional means. I saw our hero, the Solitary Gourmet, tucking into this apparently common Hawaiian dish in Japan. There are many cultural links between Hawaii and Japan and it makes sense that one can find the former’s dishes in the latter country. Hawaiian cuisine is a bit difficult to find in London and what’s available is all just a little bit more dressed up from what I can see is available on the original islands. No loco moco, no Spam musubi, no plate lunches. And certainly no oxtail soup, which apparently is commonly found throughout the state.

Hawaiian Oxtail Soup

Luckily, it’s an easy soup to make – essentially you dump everything into a pot and play a long game. There’s a tiny bit of fiddlier preparation with the oxtail where you parboil and trim the fat and I’m definitely going to do this with oxtails in future recipes too as it makes things all clearer and less fatty. Oh, and most importantly, it’s delicious – the oxtails were falling off the bone and the soy and ginger were perfect with it. It’s perfect for a cold day.

Hawaiian Oxtail Soup

Hawaiian Oxtail Soup
Adapted from Simply Recipes.
serves 4.

1 kg oxtail
1 piece dried orange peel
2 star anise
2 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
A half cup of shelled and peeled raw peanuts
Fresh mustard greens – a good sized bunch
Salt to taste

To serve
Coriander, chopped
Spring onions, sliced
Grated raw ginger and soy sauce
White rice

Place all the oxtail into a large pot and cover with boiling water. Set over high heat and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. Drain the oxtail, rinsing them under cold water – do ensure you get all the tiny bits of bone off. Trim the oxtail of fat and then place them back into the now empty pot.

To the cleaned oxtail, add the dried orange peel, star anise, and ginger. Cover with water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer, half covered, for an hour. Add the peanuts and some salt and continue cooking until the oxtails are very tender – this will be about 2-2.5 hours longer. Adjust the salt to taste. Cut the bunch of mustard greens into large pieces and add them to the soup. Let them cook for 10 minutes and the soup is ready.

In the meantime, prepare the stuff to serve with the soup. Chop up lots of coriander. Thinly slice lots of spring onions. Cook some white rice. Grate some ginger.

When the oxtail is ready, ladle some into a bowl and top with the coriander and spring onions. Serve the rice in another bowl. In a dipping bowl, place some grated ginger and top with light soy sauce (adjust to your taste). To eat, pick out the meat from the oxtails and dip into the soy/ginger mix. The rice can be eaten alongside or dumped into the remaining soup to be eaten like a congee. Enjoy!

I returned from that trip to Arundel with a slight obsession with cheese scones. We had them twice there – a sturdy savoury one at Motte & Bailey Cafe and a tender flaky one at Belinda’s. Both were served warm and with plenty of butter. Hot savoury salty strong cheesy scones with cold butter… I fell in love.

Alas, we still don’t have an oven at home but I discovered, after a bit of searching, girdle scones… a Scottish type of scone that’s cooked on a girdle, i.e. a griddle. Perfect! Essentially all I’d need is a flat surface over heat – I had that at least! It’s exactly like a scone – simple ingredients, minimising handling of the dough, quick cooking. And even if you do have an oven, with this recipe, there’s no need to preheat it! The scones I made were perfect and puffed up nicely over the heat. Flaky, savoury…. oh boy, time to make another batch.

Cheese Girdle Scones

Cheese Girdle Scones
Makes 8 (serves 2-4)
Adapted from a recipe from Sunday Hot Pants

1 cup plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tbsp cold butter
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated mature cheddar
A scant 1/2 cup milk

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt well. Cut in the cold butter until the butter pieces resemble rolled oats. Stir in the cheese.

Add the milk a little at a time, mixing it in each time – you may not need all of it. If it feels too wet, add some flour. But don’t overwork the mixture; use a light hand. Form the soft dough into a round about 1.5 cm thick. Cut this round into 8 wedges.

Heat a frying pan (I used nonstick but I think cast iron would be good too) over medium low heat. Place the round into the pan, keeping the wedges tightly together. Cook them on both sides until they are cooked through and golden brown on their sides. This will be about 5-7 minutes per side. If you’re concerned about the centre not cooking through, you can also put their cut sides directly over the heat.

Serve warm with butter!

For a sweet version, skip the cheese and add some sugar and currants. I reckon these can be easily customised.

Tamarind and Thyme: The Soup Era. We’ve been making and drinking quite a lot of soup. This recipe was suggested by my food-loving French colleague and apparently it’s quite the classic in France. I’m a big fan of both courgettes and La Vache Qui Rit (that’s Laughing Cow here in the UK) and it sounded right up my street. And it was! It was very comforting and ridiculously easy to make.

My courgettes are all gone now – I’ve just ripped up the plants – but I’ve noticed lots still in the shops that would be perfect for this.

Courgette and Le Vache Qui Rit Soup

Courgette and La Vache Qui Rit Soup
serves 4.

About 800g of courgettes
800ml water
1 tsp vegetable bouillon
4 triangles of Laughing Cow cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

This one’s easy! If you feel the courgette skin is too bitter, peel some of it off; I left mine and my soup turned out fine. Cut up your courgettes into small chunks and dump them into a pot. Cover with 800ml water and the bouillon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the courgettes are tender.

Add the cheese and stir through until incorporated. Whizz the soup with a blender until smooth and then salt and pepper to taste. Keep hot until ready to serve.

Did you watch the most recent Rick Stein series – From Venice to Istanbul? There was one episode somewhere in Turkey where Mr Stein watched a tomato and lemon fish stew being cooked by a woman. I think perhaps the recipe was so simple that no one even bothered to write down the recipe as it’s not on the BBC website. A similar recipe is provided, cooked by a fisherman (in another episode, I think) but I wanted *that one*.

I had my doubts whether the recipe as presented would even work. All the ingredients, including a whole fish, are dumped into a large saute pan, it’s covered and then set onto the heat. But somehow it did work as various juices were exuded from the tomatoes, lemon and fish and this all mingled together and created a delectable fish stew. It’s stupidly easy and I highly recommend it! I reckon there are plenty of fishy combinations that will work when cooked in this way.

Turkish Fish Stew with Tomato and Lemon

Turkish Tomato and Lemon Fish Stew
serves 2.

Two sea bass (I used small individual serving sized ones), cleaned
1 large onion
3 large tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 lemons
salt
extra virgin olive oil

Peel and slice the onion and spread the rings in the bottom of a large saute pan (that has a lid). Sit the fish on top of the onions. Peel and dice the tomatoes (pour boiling water over the tomatoes in a heatproof bowl, leave for a minute, and the skins should just slip off) and scatter them over the fish. Peel the garlic and cut into large chunks and also add this to the pan along with the chopped parsley.

Take one lemon and slice off the peel. Slice the now naked lemon into slices and dot the top of your fish mixture. Take half of the second lemon and squeeze the juice over. Season with salt and drizzle over a very generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.

Cover the pan and set it over medium heat. In about 40 minutes, the fish should be cooked through and everything else should have cooked down, leaving you with a lovely fish stew. Serve with lots of bread for mopping it all up.

Is it an Indian summer now? It’s certainly sunnier and warmer than I would have expected it to be, seeing how cold and wet September entered. But thanks to the cold at night and a general unwillingness to turn on the central heating any more than we already are (we’re in a bit of denial that summer’s over), I’ve been making a lot of soup. I mean, look, second soup recipe in a row!

This Turkish red lentil soup, mercimek çorbasi, is currently one of our favourites, it being super easy to put together in very little time. While it’s simmering away (and an extra 10-15 minutes doesn’t hurt), you can go off and do something else. And the flavour! By itself the soup is fine but it’s when you add the lemon and mint that things pick up. And the chilli butter! If you’re looking to keep preparation all down to only one pot, dusting the top of the soup with a little Turkish dried chilli flakes (pul biber) is delicious too.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup
serves 2 as a light meal or 4 as a starter.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 cup of split red lentils, washed
5 cups of water/vegetable stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt

1 tbsp butter
dried Turkish chilli pepper flakes
fresh mint, chiffonade
lemon wedges

Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil and onion. Cook until soft and translucent. Add the carrot and stir for another minute. Add the lentils, water/stock, tomato paste and cumin and stir through. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let simmer until the lentils and carrots are soft – this is usually 20-30 minutes. Blend the soup (I use a handheld blender) until smooth. Salt to taste and dilute too if it’s looking too thick. Keep hot.

In a small pan, melt the butter and add about a tsp of dried chilli flakes. Keep over a low-medium heat until the butter turns a beautiful reddish colour.

Serve the soup in bowls, drizzled with a little of the chilli butter and topped with fresh mint and serve with lemon wedges.

When I found fresh corn cobs at my supermarket recently, I jumped with joy. I love corn! I had a revelatory moment as a child when I first tasted corn kernels smothered in butter – I’m pretty sure I downed that dish, the sweet nubs of corn swimming in butter. Butter. OK, so maybe I fell in love with the butter.

But what I’m trying to say very poorly is that corn and dairy tend to go well together brilliantly. And what better way to join them together in holy matrimony than in a soup – in particular, corn chowder. Creamy, creamy corn chowder. This made for a brilliant dinner one cold September night.

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder
Serves 2-3 as a light meal.

1 tbsp olive oil
A small onion, finely chopped
A small handful of chopped bacon or lardons (obviously, leave this out if you want the soup to be vegetarian-friendly)
Corn kernels cut from 3 fresh ears of corn
1 large starchy potato, peeled and diced
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
A sprig of fresh thyme
About 150 ml single cream
1-2 spring onions, finely sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a medium size pot over medium heat and add the olive oil and the chopped onion. Fry until translucent. Add the bacon and fry until cooked. Add the corn, potato, stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the potato is soft. Fish out the thyme.

Add the single cream and bring back to a simmer. If you’re looking for a slightly smoother texture, go ahead and blend some of the soup; I stuck in a stick blender and gave it a bit of a whiz to give it just a little thickness and body but still with lumps. Add the sliced spring onions and stir through until wilted. Season to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Serve hot with lots of hot bread on the side.

Nuh uh, I don’t have a glut. We only have two courgette plants but together, they pump out enough courgettes to keep us feeling like we’re eating courgettes at every meal. Some days it’ll be a massive one the size of my forearm; other days I’ve got a handful of baby courgettes to use up. But a glut? Nah, surely that’s when you have more courgettes than you can use, right? Because we’re using up all our courgettes so far!

And anyway, they are succumbing to powdery mildew now and I’ll make a note that next year, I should stagger the plantings for a longer courgette season!

This recipe used up some courgettes and some of our chard as well; the latter is also pumping out leaves at a phenomenal rate! It’s a very versatile recipe – we ate it as it is or let it cool and mix with beaten eggs and turn it into a big omelette. Or even stir it through some pasta. It’s the garden in a pan!

Courgette and Rainbow Chard

Courgette and Chard Sauté
Serves 2

2 courgettes
A small bundle of chard
Olive oil
A handle of pine nuts
Shavings of pecorino Romano or some other hard cheese
Salt and freshly black pepper

Cut the courgettes and in a large sauté pan, cook them in a little olive oil over medium heat, stirring once in a while.

Meanwhile, clean your chard and separate stems from leaves. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch the stems and after a couple of minutes, add the leaves. Drain after a minute or two. Add the chard to the courgettes (which should be colouring by now) and stir.

Empty the small pot and put back over the heat. Add a little olive oil and toast the pine nuts, pulling them off the heat when they start to colour – the residual heat with continue to toast them.

Stir the courgettes and chard together and when all heated through, season. Stir through the pine nuts and plate, scattering the shaved cheese on top.

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