Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crab mayonnaise finger sandwiches

At any time of year, a quick snack dipped in a tiny bit of luxury to help in the perk me up process really ought to involve a bit of shellfish, and crab - so accessible and not really all that expensive fits the bill. I'd love to be in a position where I could romanticise up daily lingering lunches like this; glass of champagne, copy of The Telegraph and Radio 3 plinking away in the background of my fantasy Thursday lunchtimes. The stark reality, well midweek anyways, is that there are precious weekends right now where this shoe fits, so midweek? Ha! Stick it in a sandwich and grab it when you can...

Thankfully all is not entirely lost, the crab mayonnaise filling is very versatile – fantastic wrapped in lettuce leaves, in mini pastry shells as canapés and on bruschetta, or as I've done with a soft boiled egg and a few salad leaves this time round. Use fresh crabmeat and if you can, and homemade mayonnaise if you will for the best result and flavour.

Serves 4-6

300g white crabmeat
1 shallot, peeled and very finely chopped
½ crisp green apple (e.g., Granny Smith), peeled and finely diced
Small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
6-7 tblsp mayonnaise
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of lime juice
8 medium slices of brown bread

Place the crabmeat in a bowl and pick out any bits of shell. Stir in the shallot, apple and coriander, and then add the mustard and enough mayonnaise to bind the mixture together.

Season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Chill for 20 minutes to allow the mixture to firm up a little.

Spread a thick layer of the crab mixture on to four slices of bread. Sandwich with the remaining pieces of bread. Cut off the crusts and slice each sandwich into three “fingers”. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spicy seafood soup

...and continuing the theme of spice and broth, yesterdays freezing rain just sealed the deal when deciding what to conjure up for lunch. Feeling a bit low with the world always has me turning to soup, as many will testify, it must simply be the 'Mothers warmth factor' in soup that makes most things seem better all of a sudden. Funnily enough I called my Mum after lunch and endured a tortuous but hilarious thirty minute walk through of receiving and replying to an email I'd just sent her! There will be a time, in the not too distant future when I'll be exasperating my own kids over some new fangled technology.

I don't have a blender at home, so more often than not, my soups tend to be chunky anyway, this seafood number is a good example of bunging it all in, getting your timing right, and serving straight from the pot. The recipe below is tried and tested, but really should only act as a starting point. 

Serves 2

2 large shrimp (prawn)
2 boneless fillets from a sea eel
2 pen shell clams
2 ounces (60g) prepared squid
2 large mussels
2 asari clams
2 large clams
½ young corn cob
¼ chingensai (bok choy or pak choi)
15 fluid ounces (440ml) dashi
1 sea bass fillet, cut into chunks
2 tbsp light soy sauce
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 tbsp sake
1 teaspoon chilli garlic sauce
Coriander leaves

Prepare the main soup ingredients: insert a knife into the back of the shrimp and de-vein. Pour boiling water over it to change partially the surface colour. Plunge the eel into boiling water, immediately drain and plunge into iced water. Extract the pen shell clam from its shell and cut it and the squid into thin slices, about 1/16 in (3 mm) thick. Rinse well the mussel, the asari clams and the clam. Briefly blanch the young corn and the chingensai.

Pour the dashi into a cooking pot, add the main soup ingredients (including the sea bass) and bring to a boil. When the shells open, add the soy sauce, sea salt and sake to taste, and then add the chilli garlic sauce.

Transfer to a soup dish and sprinkle with coriander. I have this little jar of bonito, seaweed and sesame at home which I scattered over too - remarkable flavours.

Make sure that the fish, young corn and chingensai are all cooked and ready to eat at the same time. The shellfish are ready to eat as soon as the shells open.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Korean rice


Bibimbop literally means "mixed rice" or "mixed meal" in Korean. It's a popular meal consisting of a bowl of steamed white rice topped with vegetables, beef, a whole egg, and kochujang (Korean chili pepper paste). If you know what you're really doing, then the Kochujang is normally served separately to control its spiciness of this rice dish, failure to do this will result in mouth fire as experiences of late will testify.

A variation of this dish, dolsot bibimbop ("dolsot" meaning "stone pot") is served in a heated stone bowl, in which a raw egg is cooked against the sides of the bowl. Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom of the bowl is coated with sesame oil; consequently, the portion of the rice touching the bowl becomes golden brown and crispy.

Vegetables commonly used in bibimbop include cucumber, courgettes, carrot, white radish, mushrooms, bellflower root, and laver, as well as spinach, soybean sprouts, and bracken fern stems. Tofu, either plain or sauteed, may also be included in the dish. Within both types of bibimbops, all ingredients are typically stirred together thoroughly before eating.

This recipe is a mouthful in both senses, but honestly, properly cooked rice topped with anything from the Korean market will be a very close call towards a good thing indeed. If you feel inclined to make your own kimchi then there's another awesome addition, otherwise buy it in, just as good.

1/4 lb of chopped beef (ground beef is acceptable)
100g bellflower roots (doraji)
50g bean sprouts
1 lettuce leaf
3 shiitake mushrooms
1 sheet of vegetable jelly
1/3 carrot
1 cucumber
1 egg
3 cups sticky rice, steamed
4 tbsp kochujang
1 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp sesame seeds
sesame oil

Wash 3 cups of rice, soak for 30 minutes and drain. Put the rice in a heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid and add 3 1/3 cups of water, then bring them to a boil. After 10-15 minutes boiling, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid while cooking.

Season beef and stir-fry lightly until cooked. Cut cucumbers, carrots and shitake mushrooms into match stick size and shred bellflower roots (doraji) and lettuce leaf. Squeeze out excess water and sprinkle them with salt (not including lettuce leaf).

Add 1 tsp of sesame oil to hot frying pan and stir-fry the cucumber quickly so the colour stays vivid. Spread them on a big plate to cool. Add more sesame oil, then stir-fry bellflower roots, carrots, and mushrooms consecutively.

Place cooked rice in a deep dish and add the prepared ingredients on top of the rice (*For hot stone dolsot bibimbop, heat the stone pot until hot enough to burn the fingers and coat 2 tsp of sesame oil. Place the rice sizzling right into the hot stone pot).
Fry an egg sunny-side-up in a frying pan and place it on top of the dish (*For hot stone dolsot bibimbop, place the raw egg on the side of the hot pot so it can slightly cook).

To make seasoned kochujang paste, combine 4 tablespoons of kochujang, 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of sesame seeds and 2 tsp of sesame oil.  Mix all ingredients well.

Add seasoned kochujang to taste and mixes it thoroughly with the rice and vegetables before beginning.

For homemade kimchi, have a look here