Just before Christmas, a friend asked me for this recipe, and I realised I’d never actually posted it.
This was a bit of a surprise, as it’s something I’ve been making for years. I had to send him the draft, and it was, let’s say, a little rough…
I’ve tidied it up now.
So, what exactly is “three cup aubergines”? It looks pretty questionable if you try to express it in emoji, but it’s just a veggie take on a Chinese classic: Three Cup Chicken.
I don’t think there’s a recipe in Every Grain of Rice– which has become my go-to for Chinese food – but that Serious Eats one is decent, and it’s pretty simple in any case.
The three cups in question are, historically, one each of soy, rice wine, and sesame oil, all cooked down to a sticky sauce. Although if you actually use three cups of each you’ll need to serve it with a generous side of blood pressure meds.
Both the aubergine and chicken versions are quick to make, succulent, and incredibly comforting served with a bowl of rice and some simple greens.
Earlier this year, the boyfriend and I had an amazing time in Hong Kong. That’s a whole separate post, and one where I get over-excited about architecture before complaining about the air quality and the financial inequality.
But the food was amazing.
Particularly amazing were the xiaolong bao we had at Din Tai Fung. If you’ve not had xiaolong bao before (and I hadn’t), they’re these little steamed dumplings, usually filled with minced meat, various aromatics, and – crucially, deliciously – soup.
I know, right? Soup. Turns out the answer is “gelatine”, but we’ll get to that.
Recalling how much we’d enjoyed them, and being non-trivially wonderful, as a Christmas gift, Kit got us both a class learning to make them. It was an oddly serene way to spend a January morning, and thoroughly enjoyable
A couple of weeks ago, I realised I had been making Spanish omelettes wrong (or at least badly) for years. This mini epiphany came when playing Codenames (it’s brilliant, you need it) with a friend whose Spanish boyfriend had heard I liked food. He waxed lyrical about tortilla de patatas the way his gran showed him to make, and then proceeded to show us how it’s done.
The key revelation was small but delicious: about a pint of olive oil.
Yep, it’s basically potato confit. Which, I’m sure is old news to most of you. But (light your pitchforks!) I’d been boiling them first, or occasionally frying them to an exterior crisp. No wonder I could never get that gooey unctuous texture in the middle. Thanks David! You and your gran have massively upped my omelette game.
After tweeting about this over the long weekend, a few folks asked for my Spanish omelette recipe. “Oh, I checked and it’s basically just the Felicity Cloake one”, I said. But y’all wouldn’t be told, and now here I am making another of these. An omelette surplus – how ever will I cope.
So, just for you, Twitter Omelette Fans, just for you, here goes.
Let me tell you about one of the best things I’ve recently put in my mouth.
Naturally, it contained garlicky butter. But it also contained a few wonderful simple other things, and it was served at the bistro at the Cambridge Cookery School.
I’m not even talking about this sandwich, and it’s a great sandwich.
The bistro boasts “a strong Scandinavian and Italian influence”, as well as the customary local/sustainable/organic/crafted gubbins. While this sounded like fun, it did not prepare me for the Turkish Eggs. But I’ll get to that.
Carbonade – sometimes called Belgium’s answer to beef bourguignon – is a rich, simple stew of beef cooked in beer, with a little mustard and an ambiguous bread topping. Much, much more on the bread part later.
The etymology is probably via charbon, from meat cooked over a coal brazier, or perhaps the stewpot itself simmering over warm coals. Either way, it’s a Flemish classic that makes use of the sensational beer brewed in northern Belgium. At its very simplest, you can just dump a kilo of beef shin in a pot with some onions, herbs, and a bottle of oud bruin. But then you’d miss the (questionably authentic) mustard croutons, and those are sodding delicious.
I’ve been making carbonade for as long as I’ve been cooking, and its evolution in my repertoire is a mini history of me learning to cook. If I had a change log (sauce control?) it would be fascinating. Not least because I recently got all in a lather about the history of the dish, wondering exactly when people started topping it with mustard-slathered croutons?
Just off Oxford Street, you’ll find Cookery School – two bright, well-equipped kitchen/classrooms, right in the centre of London. As I’m taking a few days off to recover from some exciting/stressful Adulting, I decided to book myself onto their “Ultimate Fish and Shellfish” course on Saturday.
It was great. I cooked things I’d not cooked before, met some lovely folks, and dismantled a fine selection of water critters.
The course is about six hours, with lots of hands-on time, and an eye-popping quantity of things to eat at the end. It’s a rich, full day for brain and stomach. You can tell, because they kept me too busy to take any pictures. Also, we were reminded, smartphones are filthy. Hand washing was (correctly) mandatory after Instagramming.
All the images here are things I came home and cooked from the course, but if you want to get a feel, there’s some great food (and action shots) on Cookery School’s own Instagram feed.
Elderflower ‘champagne’ is basically prison hooch for people who read Country Life. Oh sure, it’s got this noble, rustic pedigree. But at bottom you’re fermenting sugar water in a bucket and flavouring it with something you nicked from a hedge. Foraged. Whatever.
Classy or no, it’s delicious.
Elderflowers are wonderfully pungent, and this time of year the Cambridge river banks are full of their scent. I can’t resist making buckets of this stuff – bottling away a little of that summer for later in the year. Also, did I mention the prison hooch? You can get utterly wankered for a tenner, and feel like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall while you do it.
This is the recipe for Elderflower Fizz I’ve been making for the last few years. It works, and it probably won’t explode.
Update: I’ve had some issues with the latest batch of this recipe coming out far too dry, so it may need a little work.
If you’ve ever found yourself staring into your store cupboard, wondering precisely why you have three separate mostly-used packets of cashew nuts, or a whole unopened bag of sesame seeds you don’t remember buying, or just why you have four types of lentil, then you’ll find my Sunday morning quite familiar.
“I should really” I thought “just use some of these bloody things to make some space”. Enter: mole poblano. A dry-goods tidy in sauce form. Well, if your dry goods include various nuts, seeds, and berries of unremembered provenance, and some fancy chiles. This ain’t helping with the lentils. Seriously, when do I ever use the big, non-puy green ones? What was I thinking?
Mole poblano is a Mexican classic, for years better known in the US than the UK. It’s fruity/sweet/smoky, thickened with nuts, and can take you most of a day to make. This is a veggie version, adapted both from Rick Bayless, and to what I had to hand. The nuts are different, and I’ve de-clawed the spice. It also takes less time.
That turned out to be good, because after tweeting about the annoyance of Bayless’ quarts/cups/imperial measure bobbins original, I needed that time back to block (or at least roll my eyes at) a parade of mansplaining neckbeards with no ear for tone.
My (fantastic) local pub does a pretty good vegan bean burger. It’s a rich thing, hefty on the cumin and sweet potato, and they serve it with a little avocado. A good time. I have, however, taken to polluting its vegan essence by ordering it with a slab of cheese on top. This is, if anything, an even better time. But you have to pick your cheeses.
Sharp cheddar on a bean burger, maybe even Red Leicester or a Wensleydale? Yup, for sure. Mozzarella? Not so much.
It ought to work, but the thick, gentle creaminess of the mozzarella just fights the cumin and the spicy/sweet of the dark beans and sweet potato. Hmm. What to do? Could I hack together a bean burger that would be a bit lighter and fit nicely with some melty-gooey cheese?
The short answer is “kind of”, and the long answer is this week’s experimental recipe.