A simple little dish that can be a side or you can add some protein for a complete dish - prawns, tofu, chicken, beef, duck - all would work I am sure. For two, take a good-sized bunch of asparagus and snap off the woody ends. Slice each stem on the diagonal or into inch long chunks. Slice about 200g of mushrooms - shittake if you have them or I used just chestnut mushrooms. Crush a clove of garlic (or two....) and finely dice a 'thumb' of peeled ginger. In a bowl, combine 100ml of veg stock (Marigold powder, as always, is fine) with 2 dessertspoons of Tamari (or just regular soy sauce, but Tamari has a nicer flavour I think.) Season with black pepper and a dash of toasted sesame oil. Now heat a wok or non-stick frying pan until really hot, pour in a tablespoon of rape seed or other vegetable oil, and then add the asparagus. Spread into a single layer and then....leave them! Don't stir-fry yet, let them sizzle and pop and take on some golden colour for a minute or two. Turn them over and fry for a further minute, then add the mushrooms. Let them cook for a minute until satarting to soften, then throw in the garlic and chilli. Stir and toss everything in the pan for another minute, then pour over the stock/Tamari mix. Stir and allow to sizzle and reduce, covering the veg in a light, savoury umami-ish glaze and then serve straight away. Simply delicious.
'Magic' because it sets without the need for egg yolks and baking, harnessing the power of acid reacting with fat (lots of fat....) to set, like a lemon posset. There are so many recipes for Key Lime Pie, some using eggs, some with gelatine, some with a meringue topping, but this is my favourite. It has the added virtue of being suitable for veggies. Rich and creamy, yes, but also refreshing and tangy with the zest and juice of 6 limes. A little goes a long way. Mind you, so does a lot, ha! To make: crush 200g Hobnob biscuits in a processor, or a plastic bag and a rolling pin. Stir into 75g melted butter, and press firmly into the base of a loose-bottomed cake or flan tin. Leave to set in the fridge, while you prepare the filling. Into a large bowl, put a tin of sweetened condensed milk (you can use the 'Light' version if you want), a medium carton of double cream (about 228ml, usually) and the finely-grated zest of 6 limes. Stir, and watch the cream turn an amazing green from the zest. Now, squeeze the juice from the limes (rolling them under your flattened palm or heating them for 5 seconds in the microwave helps release the juice), and stir into the milk/cream mixture. Like magic (hence the title), the creamy mixture will thicken before your very eyes. When the juice is well incorporated, turn it onto the chilled biscuit base and spread out evenly. Lick the bowl. And spoon. Dig out a little spoonful from the mix and eat. Patch up the top again, erasing the evidence. Repeat. Now, leave to set for a good couple of hours or overnight if possible. Run a knife round the edge and push up the base, to serve. This is rich, so should serve 8-10 people. Allegedly.
Flammkuchen is a kind of Northern European pizza - or perhaps pizza is an Italian Flammkuchen, who knows? What makes it different is the absence of tomato and the use of dairy, and it appears to be popular in Alsace, parts of Western Germany and even in Austria. As with pizza, the variations for the toppings are endless. Thhe bread dough is simple and quick and doesn't need to prove for ages, so it is perfectly feasible for a weeknight supper. We loved it. For 2 people, make a bread dough out of 200g plain flour (ordinary plain flour is actually better here, as you get a softer finish), 5g of dried instant yeast, 1/4 teaspoon salt, glug of rapeseed or olive oil, about 100ml of cold water and a heaped teaspoon of creme fraiche. I mixed it in a stand mixer with a dough hook for 6 or 7 minutes. You want a wet dough, so add a little more water if needed. Cover and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place. Prep your chosen topping - not too much - in our case, another heaped teaspoon of creme fraiche, two rashers of chopped smoked bacon, a handful of sliced mushrooms and a couple of tablespoons of grated cheddar, Parmesan or other hard cheese. Saute the bacon and mushroom for a few minutes first. Heat the oven to 220C and put a heavy baking sheet in to warm. Tip the risen dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper and use your finger tips to flatten and shape it into a thin rectangle about 12" by 9" or thereabouts - try to build up a little rim round the edges. Spread the surface thinly with the creme fraiche, add the toppings and transfer, on the paper, to the hot baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes until nicely browned and golden. Slice and devour!
To celebrate my return to blogging, here is a recipe for tonight's cocktail, the wonderful 'Saketini'. This blend of Sake, Vodka and Orange Triple Sec makes for an elegant accompaniment to the Umami flavours of Tamari and Black Sesame Rice Cakes. Take 1 portion of vodka (just good old Stoly will do), 2.5 of Sake (don't use premier quality, we use the widely-available Sawanotsuru brand), 0.5 of Orange Curacao, and (if you have any) a dash or two of orange bitters. Stir well over ice (shaking would make it go cloudy) and serve in a Martini glass with a thin slice of cucumber. (Again, optional, but it does add another layer of flavour). So, future blogs will be about various things: seasonal fruit and veg, as always, along with some classic recipes that peopl have asked for, some more Under a Fiver, and (a particulare favourite of mine in these cash-strapped times) using up leftovers. Let me know if there is anythng in particular you want. It won't be as frequent as before, as I have other projects on the go, but whenever something good comes along, I'll share it with you!