Broccoli and tofu with cashew nuts and sichuan pepper

This is substantially cribbed from a James martin recipe I found on BBC Good Food, so I won’t dwell on a full write up. It basically works, is all.

You fry tofu with broccoli and spring onions, some generic sauce ingredients (soy, vinegar, honey, rice wine) plenty of garlic, pak choi, and oodles of sichuan pepper:

Broccoli and tofu with sichuan pepper

What I will dwell on is how awesome sichuan pepper is. Fuchsia Dunlop raves about it in her food memoir, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, which is where I came across it first. It has a little heat, sure, but it’s not like western black pepper at all.

It’s peculiar. There’s a tingly, almost numbing feel to it, and a gorgeous spicyness. There’s something citric/metallic in the mix too, and it generally has much more flavour than it feels like a single spice has any right to. In short it’s fucking spiffing, and I’ll be using a lot.

I do think it needs a bit of chilli in support, though, and the sweetness of the honey in the sauce (the recipe says caster sugar, but balls to that) sets it off rather.

 

Orecchiette with feta, spinach, and courgettes

Some time ago  at Restaurant22, I had a rather excellent dish of gnocchi with feta, wilted bitter leaves, and various kind of bean. My suspicion is that copying it would be harder than it sounds, but yesterday I was in the mood for similar flavours.

A quick Google yields a number of extemporizations around the theme of orecchiette with feta. There are recipes that simply add rocket, or spinach, there were those with roasted peppers, and a couple with shrimp or chicken. It seems to be some kind of combinatorial matrix: pick a leaf, pick a main vegetable, pick an optional supporting veg. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what Silver Spoon makes most of Italian cooking feel like.

So I chose courgettes. Because I love them, and I am sceptical of shrimp.

Bruschetta – deeply bourgeois leftovers FTW

No, I’m not going to blog everything I eat. But I would like to report that blanched green beans with pesto and goats’ cheese make delicious bruschetta; to precisely nobody’s surprise.

In other entirely unsurprising news, tomato and garlic bruschetta remain good.

My ability to take photographs of food using only natural light and a mid-range point-and-shoot camera, however, remains questionable.

 

(I really need to do something about those plates if I’m going to keep posting pictures…)

Pappardelle with green beans and pesto

I spent February vegetarian. There – I said it. I’m not ashamed, either, although I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I called it “Veguary”.

Given my near-sexual ecstasy at the prospect of rillettes and cassoulet, “why?” is a perfectly valid question.

It was largely an experiment, to be honest. But I do feel a bit iffy about the macroeconomics and ecology around the contemporary Western diet, and eating less meat (along with one or two other dietary shifts) seems like a decent enough first step. Mostly though, it was to make cooking more interesting.

I’ll write more about Veguary in future, I’m sure. But armed with the River Cottage Veg everyday book and a fair quantity of enthusiasm, I set about it, and I survived, and I learned a lot.

One of the main things I learned was how to make things I genuinely enjoy eating that take less than half an hour to cook. The less healthy lesson I picked up was that many of these dishes are basically just pasta with some kind of vegetable, and a metric fuck-tonne of goats’ cheese dumped over the whole thing.

One of the things I regret is not writing it down at the time. So I’m going to do it now – cook my way through the bits I remember, take pictures, and tell you about it. Continue reading Pappardelle with green beans and pesto