Spaghetti carbonara has to be one of the best store cupboard pasta dishes that one can whip up in the time it takes for the spaghetti to boil. We’ve only just discovered that the addition of something green is absolutely brilliant as it helps cut the richness a little and you certainly feel better about getting your greens in even with such a quick meal.

While I’ve seen recipes for courgette carbonara, we like the addition of broccoli. Broccoli keeps for ages in our fridge and well, I just feel courgette can be a bit boring at times. Adding the broccoli doesn’t add any time to the preparation of the pasta dish as it’s cooked with the pasta. And, of course, as my Italian colleagues are likely to shout at you – no cream! The egg and cheese and pasta water will make it all creamy by itself.

Farfalle and Broccoli Carbonara

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara
serves 2.

250g dried spaghetti or other pasta shape you need to use up (farfalle in our case)
olive oil
5 slices smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
about 1/2 a small head of broccoli
3 medium-large eggs
about 30-50g grated pecorino romano
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Set a large pot of salted water to boil and get your pasta cooking.

Crack all your eggs into a bowl and beat them well. Add the grated pecorino romano and season with salt and lots of black pepper and beat well again.

Heat a large saute pan and add a little olive oil. Chop the bacon/pancetta and fry off the pieces slowly. Keep on a low heat when ready.

Chop all the broccoli (the stem too) into small pieces and toss them into the pasta water when the pasta is almost done. When the pasta is ready, the broccoli will be too – drain them both and add to the warm pan with the bacon. Stir and while stirring, pour over the egg mixture, and keep mixing all together. The egg and cheese should coat the pasta without scrambling. If it’s looking a bit too dry, add some of the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.

I’m a huge fan of Cuban food. No, I’ve not been to Cuba; my only experiences have been in Florida and what I’ve had had been fantastic. I’ve been looking for Cuban food in London but most of the “Cuban” restaurants seem more focused on the vibe rather than the food. I’d have to figure out how to cook it at home.

Luckily, there are a lot of Cuban recipes online and many Cuban recipe blogs coming out of Florida. I recently learned of one classic French-inspired braised chicken dish called fricasé de pollo. One Saturday while working from home, I realised I had most of the ingredients to make this fricasé in my fridge. The recipe (I put together from various recipes on the internet) takes a little preparation beforehand in the form of marinading the chicken but as usual, it’s worth it. All the tomatoes and chicken and raisins give a richness and sweetness that’s perfectly balanced by the citrus juices and olives and capers.

Fricase de Pollo

Fricasé de Pollo
serves 3-4.

1 kg of chicken parts (I used drumsticks and thighs)
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (I didn’t have this and left it out – it didn’t harm the dish)
2 bay leaves
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
1 scant teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup wine
about 200ml passata
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
a few teaspoons of capers
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsps roughly chopped parsley
3 small-medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

In a large non-reactive bowl, mix together the juices, the garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, a large pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Whisk this all together and then mix in the chicken parts, ensuring that all parts are evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least a few hours or overnight.

In a large and deep saute pan, heat a little olive oil over medium high heat. Dab each chicken piece dry with some kitchen paper (reserving the marinade in the bowl) and brown in batches. Set the chicken aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add a little more olive oil if required. Saute the onion and green pepper (if using) until translucent. Add the oregano, cumin and bay leaves and fry for another minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring up any chicken bits. Stir in the passata and place the chicken pieces back into the pan in one layer. Add just enough water to cover the chicken pieces. Add the reserved marinade, olives, capers, raisins, parsley, and potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cover.

When the potatoes and chicken are cooked through (mine were after about 30 minutes), serve. This is perfect over white rice and black beans if you have any.

I’ve been wanting to cook this Japanese dish for a long time. I say Japanese but to be more specific, taco rice originated in Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan and where the US military has a presence. I guess it’s no surprise then that this mishmash of Tex-Mex and Japanese cuisines developed there! There’s no carnitas or barbacoa here – we’re getting down and homey with seasoned minced beef. And the toppings are just as you’d find them at any proper Tex-Mex joint – shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes. And all of it on rice.

Taco Rice!

The dish is supremely comforting and I reckon we’re going to have it often. There’s the contrast of the hot rice and beef with the cold toppings and dare I say it? – I think it’s all even better on rice than on a tortilla!

Taco Rice
serves 2.

250g minced beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder/cayenne pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsps ketchup
100ml water
hot sauce to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
cooked white Japanese rice
shredded cheese
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes
chopped avocado
sour cream or Greek yoghurt
salsa

This recipe makes quite a mild taco beef mixture; increase the chilli powder and hot sauce for more heat. In a hot frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the minced beef, breaking it up as you go along. When the beef has browned, add the cumin and chilli powder and continue frying for a bit. Add the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, water and hot sauce to taste and let it all bubble together slowly until you get a generally dry yet moist mixture. You’ll just know. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place some rice into a bowl or onto a plate. Top with the taco beef mixture and then some shredded cheese. Top with the rest of the ingredients as you desire and serve.

Winter time means soup time! It’s certainly chilly here in London and my frosty lawn is testament to that but I still find myself living vicariously through the east coast of North America and their snowmageddon (I miss the snow – c’mon, London, just one little dusting…). While I continue on in hope that snowflakes will come sometime this year, I’m making lots of soup in my kitchen.

This sweet potato soup was inspired by something very similar we had for lunch a while ago in Bistroy Les Papilles in Paris. It’s very simple too, with the main ingredients being just an onion and the sweet potatoes, of course. And I served it poured over a few ingredients placed at the bottom of the soup bowl. The only addition that is mandatory is the Greek yoghurt/creme fraiche – its tang is required to cut through the sweetness of the tubers. The rest is a bonus!

Greek Yoghurt, Croutons, Chorizo, Parsley

Sweet Potato Soup

Leftovers were even better – this bowl below was thinned a bit more and topped with just a few toasted seeds, a little black pepper and a blob of Greek yoghurt. And now I need to make more!

Leftover Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet Potato Soup
serves 4.

olive oil
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
6 small or 2 large sweet potatoes
a little bit of vegetable or chicken bouillon
salt and white pepper

To serve:
Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche (not optional!)
Parsley (optional)
Chorizo (optional)
Croutons (optional)
Toasted seeds (optional)

Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and set aside.

Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Peel and chop the onion and cook in the pan until golden brown. Chop the garlic roughly and add it to the pan to colour a little. Add the sweet potatoes, the bouillon (I just chucked in a teaspoon of whatever I had) and add water to cover everything. Raise the heat to a boil, then reduce it and let it all simmer away until everything is soft.

Puree the soup using a hand blender or in a normal blender or if you don’t have that, mashing it all up works too. Or just leave it chunky – no one’s going to check! If it’s too thick, add water and ensure that it’s all heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, chop up some eating chorizo, make your croutons and chop your parsley. Either (a) place a quenelle of Greek yoghurt at the bottom of your soup bowl, scatter with the toppings and then ladle the soup in at the table, or (b) ladle the soup into the bowls, add a blob of yoghurt and scatter over the toppings. Serve.

Ebi furai is the Japanese for fried prawns and I enjoyed many a deep fried prawn while in Nagoya last year. It’s one of the specialties of that city and it’s quite a simple one to recreate at home (if you don’t mind the deep frying!).

Ebi Furai

Somehow the idea of it entered my head and I got to cooking ebi furai at home. And yes, it’s quite simple and there must be a million recipes for it online. Here’s mine – making it a million and one. I served mine by themselves with a bit of cabbage salad and rice and tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog) on the side.

Ebi Furai Dinner

Ebi Furai
serves 2.

King prawns or tiger prawns – enough for two (I used 9-10)
plain flour
salt
2 eggs, beaten
panko
oil for frying (I used sunflower)

Prepare your prawns. Peel them if they still have their shells on, leaving just the tail bit. Remove the vein in the back and then just run the knife along the length of the belly side of the prawn – just cut a shallow slit – you don’t want to go all the way through. Then, again still shallowly, just slice gently crosswise down the length of the prawn, again on the belly side. These cuts will make the prawns stay nice and straight (pretty!).

Crumbing Prawns

Get 3 bowls ready and in the first put the flour (salted), in the second the beaten eggs and in the third the panko. With each prawn: roll in flour, then in the eggs, then in flour again, eggs again, and finally panko. Prep all the prawns like this.

Deep Frying

Heat enough oil in a saucepan for deep frying (not too hot). Deep fry – it should take just a few minutes until the panko coating is golden. Drain well. Serve with rice, thinly shredded cabbage (crisped in ice water and then drained well) and tonkatsu sauce (or tartar sauce). It’s quite nice paired with a bit of Japanese potato salad too!

Can I also suggest frying sliced courgettes in the same way? I single dipped in the flour and egg and they turned out fantastically! It’s a good way to use up a glut if you have one.

Courgette Furai

I fell in love with Tunisian cuisine while we were in Marseille and we ate a lot of couscous there. I do believe couscous is the national dish of Tunisia but it’s also extremely popular in France – and for good reason, it’s quite affordable and very delicious. It was the first thing I wanted to recreate when I got home and a quick trip down Croydon’s Surrey Street Market gave me all the ingredients I required (you’ll see from the ingredient list below that all are easy to source).

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

I made the most basic of the couscous recipes – just with lamb (though I guess chicken or just vegetable are just as simple). And the recipe itself I cobbled together from a recipe in Saveur and another in a French cookbook – yeah, it’s been so absorbed in France that it features as a traditionally loved recipe in a very very French cookbook! Brilliant!

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

It turned out the recipe really was super easy and tasted just like the couscous we tried in Marseille. It’s very soothing (good for autumn or winter) – all that couscous soaking up the spicy broth – and it’s a good way to eat your vegetables. And it’s great for feeding a crowd – I know this because the two of us ate this for three meals in one week. So yeah, this feeds six.

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

Tunisian Lamb Couscous
Serves 6.

4-6 lamb chops
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 courgettes
2 large carrots, peeled
1 turnip or daikon, peeled
Half a small white cabbage

A pinch of saffron
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tbsps tomato paste
2 bay leaves
A shake of ground cloves

1 tin chickpeas, drained
Salt and pepper
Couscous
Chopped parsley
Lemon
Harissa (I bought a tube)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the lamb chops on both sides. Cut all the vegetables into large chunks and add them all into the pot and stir it around a bit – they can go a little brown, that’s ok. Add water until everything’s covered and bring to a boil. Add the saffron, paprika, ginger, tomato paste, bay leaves and ground cloves and stir in. Let simmer until the lamb is tender and the vegetables are too – about 90 minutes to 2 hours. About an hour of the way in, add the chickpeas and continue simmering.

When you’re almost ready to serve, prepare your couscous, chop your parsley, cut your lemons into wedges for serving. Add salt and pepper to taste to the broth. Place couscous in a serving bowl and top with the lamb and some of the drained vegetables – scatter with a bit of chopped parsley. Serve bowls of the broth and more of the vegetables on the side. Serve with lemon wedges and harissa.

I’ve only recently discovered the Japanese recipe website Cookpad; it’s full of both traditional and modern recipes all provided by the Japanese public. Of course, I don’t read Japanese so I’m eternally grateful to the the translators who do translate the more popular recipes to English. On the Japanese site, the collection is currently at over 1.5 million recipes and at the time of writing, over 18,000 recipes have been translated – that’s still more than one could ever try to cook in a lifetime!

It was on Cookpad (and all the browsing through recipes I’ve done on the site) that I encountered this very simple way of presenting a Japanese nabe: sliced pork and sliced Chinese cabbage are placed upright in layers to great effect. The recipe I present below is a very simple one, with very few ingredients, and it feels quite light and healthy for a cold day (June, what is wrong with you?!). The presentation makes it feel that bit more special.

Pork and Chinese Cabbage Nabe

Pork and Cabbage Nabe
serves 2.

Half a large Chinese cabbage
A length of pork loin (how much depends on how hungry you are)
Soy sauce
Shaoxing rice wine
about 400-500ml chicken stock (I made it from a bouillon powder)
Salt and ground white pepper

Slice the pork loin crosswise as thinly as possible (this will be easier if it’s half frozen). Marinate it with a little soy sauce and a little rice wine. Slice the Chinese cabbage into wide strips crosswise. Layer the cabbage and pork together, alternating the layers, in a large clay pot (nabe) as in the photo. Pour over the chicken stock and season with salt and white pepper, if desired. A little soy sauce here wouldn’t hurt either. You’ll see that I also put in some mushrooms that I had lying about; some spring onions would be good too.

Place the lid on the nabe and place it over high heat. When it all starts steaming, reduce the heat and let it all simmer until everything is cooked. Serve with lots of white rice.

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