Spicy Beef and Vegetable Stew (yuk gaejang)

Another Korean recipe tonight from Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo’s great book Our Korean Kitchen. We bought a great big bag of gochugaru red pepper powder and we’re damn well going to use it!

This isn’t a meal you cook in a hurry – there’s two hours of simmering involved, so there’s some planning required. We couldn’t lay our hands on brisket as suggested, but the casserole steak we ended up with seemed to work OK. Once again, the gochugaru is the star adding a flavour which is quite unlike anything in western cuisine and utterly delicious. That said, after two hour of simmering I was also hoping for something a bit more unctuous. This meal was really nice, but I didn’t think it was quite worth all the time it took!

Chicken, Leek and Cider Pie

Back to tried and trusted Diana Henry today. If you follow our blog you’ll have seen the amazing chicken pie we made from one of her other recipes, which was possible the best pie I’ve ever had. Like that one, this recipe comes from A Bird in the Hand and once again was an opportunity to use up some cooked chicken we had left over from a roast.

This recipe is a simpler one than the last, but follows some similar cues such as making a roux, although cider is then added to this to make the rest of the liquid. Diana actually makes this with a crumble topping which includes cheese, but instead I went and made a shortcrust pastry case using the recipe which I picked up at John Whaite’s Kitchen. One of our biggest annoyances is what we call “fake pies” – things that look like a pie but turn out just to have pastry on top. They leave us feeling cheated! So this pie was made with an all round case.

The biggest mistake here though was forgetting to glaze the top of the pie so it didn’t look as sleek and glossy as it could have done. It also broke up quite badly when serving, but frankly it didn’t matter because once again this was an utterly amazing pie. I still prefer the previous “bird pie” we made, but this was another cracker. We served it up with some mash (made using potatoes and carrots, since we have lots of carrots in the fridge to use up) and the last of some homemade coleslaw.

Japanese Style Hamburgers (wafū hanbāgā)

It took me a while to realise that the Japanese name for this dish, handbāgā, is just a Japanese way of writing “hamburger”. This recipe is another one from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home.

I’ve got to admit though, the technique described wasn’t especially clear. It explained that the important thing was the mixing process, but then the only guidance given was to do it as if making pastry. Fortunately I’ve made pastry, but that seemed a very weak description of a process which is essential to the success of the meal.

The burgers are assembled and then steamed, but my upset really came when trying to turn them. The burgers completely fell apart. On top of that the accompanying red sauce which the recipe comes with turned out to be thin and runny. To add insult to injury the broccoli and cauliflower I’d bought to serve this with had gone mouldy.

Burgers tasted OK, but for the hassle involved and the mess that was created trying to make them, I think I’d put this recipe down as a miss.

Jjampong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup)

It’s another Korean recipe tonight from Our Korean Kitchen, and another chance to try out cooking with gochugaru powder. Despite being a seafood dish, there’s quite a lot of meat in here in the form of two pork loin steaks. Technically it’s supposed to include some shell-on mussels, but because we were cooking for two instead of four, I just bought a pack of mixed seafood from the supermarket rather than buying lots of different things.

Cooking is surprisingly easy and – apart from the noodles themselves – this is a one pot meal which doesn’t generate much washing up. Fry the powder first, then add the pork and carrot and fry some more. Now add the onion, garlic, grated ginger and mushrooms for a bit more frying, before finally adding some light soy sauce, fish stock and the seafood. Let it bubble and then serve with the noodles.

The most striking thing about this dish is the bright red colour of the sauce. It’s delicious and spicy but not overwhelming; we continue to be impressed with Korean cuisine (or at least our attempts at it!).

Oyaki Donburi

We’ve made chicken and egg donburi before, using a recipe from the Yo Sushi cookbook but this version comes from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. OK, so technically she wrote them both but we’re counting this as a different meal…

Technique is pretty similar though! Cook some rice, then get on with the meal. Dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin and sugar get mixed together and brought to the boil, then chicken is added and cooked, followed by spring onions and finally some beaten egg gets whirled through.

The final meal isn’t the prettiest thing to look at, and we both found this to be a little lacking in flavour. However, I’m wondering if the instant dashi which I’m using is past its best and this may be the cause? Either way, it made for an interesting change from what we’ve been eating recently. Also, it’s pretty low fat but high in protein!

Dak Doritang

Another recent purchase of ours is Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo. Our only real exposure to Korean food up until now have been a few of Nigella’s recipes which call for gochujang sauce. We’ve enjoyed those, so decided to branch out into some more east-Asian recipes after our journey to Japan.

There was on extra ingredient missing for this meal which was gochugaru – Korean red chilli powder. We managed to track down a bag at one of Manchester’s great east-Asian supermarkets, and it was well worth it. The flavours of this dish were just out of this world – possibly a new favourite? It’s a nice and easy one pot recipe too.

I suppose technically this is a winter recipe – it’s English name is “warming chicken and potato stew” – but it’s so delicious it can definitely be enjoyed at any time of year.

Ishikari-Nabe (Salmon and Miso Hotpot)

We’re continuing our exploration of Japanese cooking through Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. This recipe uses quite a lot of miso paste, a product which we made an interesting discovery about this week.

We’ve bought miso paste in the past from Sainsbury’s – it comes in a small jar of 100g and is their own brand. It’s the only one we can get when doing an online shop with them. However, this week we were in a local Chinese supermarket and found a large jar of the stuff for the same price, made by Yutaka. You can buy it on Amazon (unfortunately at a much higher price) via this link.

The shock discovery is that the Sainsbury’s miso paste is not miso paste! The ingredient list is totally different. The smell is different. The consistency is different. The Yutaka stuff is much nicer and much, much more authentic.

THis recipe takes a little while to make but isn’t hard. Cube the potatoes and put them in a big casserole dish on the hob, along with some konbu, chopped onion, soy sauce, mirin and sake. Add a large volume of cold water and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, remove the konbu and simmer for about 12 minutes. Then add chopped carrot and cabbage and simmer for another 12 minutes. Finally, blend some miso and butter and add this to the mix, along with some salmon. The salmon should only take a few minutes to cook and then you’re ready to eat.

We found it a bit messy to eat – the cabbage leaves and liquid resulted in a lot of splatter – but this was a tasty, umami flavoured dish. I think I enjoyed it more than Mark did though.

Pan Fried Pork with Ginger

We’re keeping it Japanese tonight with yet another recipe from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. This time it’s a pork dish with lots of cruciferous vegetables.

I got things a bit mixed up though when it came to timing. I decided to cook the with a side of rice, and I’d forgotten how long it can take to make rice “properly” – first washing it, then leaving it to stand for 10 minutes, then putting it on the hob in cold water and brining it to the boil for 10 minutes, and then leaving to stand (lid clamped on!) for 20 to 30 minutes.

This threw out the rest of my timings… I started the vegetables too soon. They were supposed to be steamed, a key fact I missed from the recipe, so I boiled them instead. But they were cooked too soon, so I had to keep them warm in the oven. I also probably left the pork in the sauce (equal parts mirin, soy and sake plus some grated ginger) for too long…

…but none of that really matters because it all came together in the end and tasted great! I was a bit worried that there was too much veg, but that wasn’t the case at all. The rice worked really well with it, and the sauce was really delicious. My only hesitation is that this isn’t what I would call a “japanese” meal… but that’s probably just my own narrow stereotypes coming into play. Either way, we had a great meal for dinner!

Tofu and Miso Gratin

Continuing our Japanese theme with Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home, we picked this recipe out to give our first major try at cooking tofu. It’s not a food that we’ve really ever had much of before – and my attempts at cooking it in the past haven’t been all that great or successful. It seems the trick is to make sure it’s properly drained before cooking so that it’s firmer… so let’s give it a go.

There’s a fairly long list of ingredients for this recipe, but it’s not actually all that hard to put together. You dust the chicken in flour and then fry it for a few minutes. Then the vegetables get added to the pan, chopped into bite sized chunks. Next you add the dashi stock (again, we used instant dashi for ease) and the mushrooms. After it’s simmered for a bit, add some miso paste and tofu and simmer it some more… then transfer the whole thing to a buttered gratin dish and sprinkle parmesan over it and bake it in the oven for a little under 15 minutes.

There’s lots of protein and vegetable in this, but not very much carb. As Kimiko suggests, we served it with some crusty bread which worked really nicely for mopping up all those umami juices. I expected this to be a really heavy meal but it wasn’t at all. I’m not saying that I’m 100% sold on tofu yet, but this was a really tasty and satisfying meal.

Niku Jaga

We’ve cooked Niku Jaga before but this recipe is from our latest book purchase – Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. That said, she also wrote the book the previous version came from…

We took the lazy route with this one, using dashinimoto to make some instant dashi stock, rather than making our own from konbu and bonito flakes. It didn’t seem to suffer for it.

I was actually a bit greedy with this meal. Mark is away, so the big slab of steak I bought ended up being consumed by me and me alone! Ribeye works really well in this, coming out really tasty and tender. The potatoes also dissolve a little into the sauce which makes it delicious and thick.

I enjoyed niku jaga last time I made it, and I enjoyed it even more so this time. Not sure if it’s because the recipe has been refined, or if I am getting better at following instructions, or if it was just a better piece of beef! Whatever, I’m one very content boy right now.