Dolsot Bibimbap 돌솥 비빔밥 (Korean Mixed Rice)

In its purest form, Bibimbap is basically as bowl of rice mixed with a variety of vegetables and from then on it can be as simple or elaborate as you like. White rice goes on the bottom and then a myriad of ingredients are placed on top and finally mixed together. Typical toppings can include seasoned beansprouts, carrots, spinach, cucumber, courgette, gosari (fern bracken), doraji (bellflower root) along with Gochujang, Yukhoe (marinated raw beef) and a raw egg yolk (or fried egg for those who are a bit hypochondriac).

The different colours present in Bibimbap is highly symbolic to the Korean psyche as it is a clear example of Obangsaek, a Korean philosophy which is meant to harmonise nature with the human body. There are five colours (blue or green, red, yellow, white & black) which form obangsaek representing the five cardinal directions (east, south, centre, west & north) and the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal & water).

Sometimes, Bibimbap is cooked in a Dolsot (Hot stone pot) but it is not essential. I actually used a typical Spanish earthenware pot instead. The advantage of using a dolsot (or earthenware pot, maybe even works in a normal pot) is that the rice touching the pot will crisp up transform into Nurungji (누룽지), much like the highly prized Socarrat in a proper Spanish Paella.

Ingredients

2 cups cooked short grain rice (sushi rice is good)

Beansprouts

Spinach

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 small cucumber, cut in half moons

Garlic, pounded

Toasted sesame seeds

Pure sesame oil

1 egg yolk

Yukhoe (optional)

1 Tbsp. Gochujang

1 spring onion, finely chopped (optional if you make Kongnamul Guk)

White pepper, to taste (optional if you make Kongnamul Guk)

Method 

1 Blanch spinach in boiling water and then rinse with cold water. Do not throw away the hot water. Season the blanched spinach with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds. Reserve.bibimbap1

2 Cook beansprouts in a pot of boiling water from blanching the spinach for 10 minutes and make sure the lid is on as otherwise it can smell really bad. Once they have cooked, remove them and season with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds. Optionally, you can leave some beansprouts in the water and make Kongnamul Guk (Beansprout Soup) to go with the Bibimbap. bibimbap2

3 Lightly fry  the carrot and then season with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil. Reserve.

4 Lightly fry the cucumber and then season with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil and sesame seeds. Reservebibimbap3

Assembly:

1 Heat a dolsot (or earthenware pot) and then add 2 tsp. sesame oil and the cooked rice and flatten down. Arrange the beansprouts, spinach, carrots and cucumber in small bunches on top of the rice. Add the yukhoe, gochujang and place the egg yolk in the centre. Cook the dolsot on a medium heat for a few minutes. You should hear sizzling, this is where the Nurungji is achieved.

2 After a few minutes, mix everything well and dig in!  bibimbap4

For the Kongnamul Guk (optional): 

Season the water from making the beansprouts with salt, white pepper and garnish with spring onions. Serve this soup alongside the Bibimbap if you wish. bibimbap5guk

 

 

Ssamjang 쌈장(Korean Wrapping Sauce)

Ssamjang is used primarily in Korean BBQ whereby a piece of meat is wrapped in lettuce (or perilla leaves if you can get your hands on them) along with a dollop of Ssamjang. It can also be used as a dip for crudites or even crisps (potato chips if you’re American).

Many people buy the prepared Ssamjang sauce from Asian supermarkets but it’s so damn easy to make so why not to do it yourself? The main ingredients include Gochujang and Doenjang which can be used in a myriad of other dishes should you have any left over so it’s not a waste to buy them. Try making my Doenjang Jjigae (Fermented Soybean Stew) or my Daeji Bulgogi (Korean Spicy BBQ Pork Belly) with whatever Doenjang and Gochujang you have left over from making Ssamjang.

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. Doenjang

1 1/2 Tbsp. Gochujang

2 Tbsp. honey

3 tsp. pure sesame oil

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 spring onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Method

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until needed. It’s that easy! ssamjang

 

 

 

 

Mollejas de pollo (Spanish Style Chicken Sweetbreads)

 

Pairing chicken with a sweet bread? What is this travesty, you may be thinking? Calm down people, all is not what it seems. Sweetbreads are not sweet and they are not even a type of bread either! I have no idea why they are named like this in English (oh great, now I’m googling etymologies…) but they are actually a type of offal. Yes, offal, those things that have gone out of fashion and lots of people nowadays are rather sickened by the whole ordeal.

Sweetbreads are a bit of a mystery as the name can refer to different parts of an animal and in other countries they may be known under different names (even within the English-Speaking World). Sometimes, sweetbreads can refer to the thymus (part of the throat) and others to the pancreas, parotid gland or sublingual glands. Hmmm, I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I had to point out most of those on a diagram except for, maybe, the pancreas. The next confusion is that it depends on which animal these parts come from; the most popular sweetbreads are from calves (veal) and lambs but can also be from pigs, cows, ducks and chickens.

Sweetbreads, when cooked in this method come out rather tough but that’s normal and that’s the way my mum has always cooked and eaten them. I guess, like most offal, it’s an acquired taste. There is an alternative recipe where you can boil them for 30 minutes and then fry but for a quick tapa I prefer to just to flash fry them. They can also be stewed but again that also takes more time and defeats the purpose of a quick bite to eat.

Give them a try; they are dirt cheap (at least in Spain), quick to cook and it makes a nice change from the usual suspects.

Ingredients

165g Chicken sweetbreads

1 Tbsp. ajo perejil marinade

1/2 small lemon, juiced

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Method

1 Cut the sweetbreads in half and marinade with the ajo y perejil, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

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Heat oil in a frying pan and sautée the sweetbreads until they are golden brown on each side.

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Optional: when serving, spoon over some extra ajo y perejil marinade and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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Japchae 잡채 (Korean Sweet Potato Noodle Stir-Fry)

Every time I think of Korean cooking I get excited because I think I have a good excuse to use liberal amounts of gochujang. I must admit that I was kinda sad when I realised that Japchae calls for none of it. I guess I’ll have to get my gochujang fix another day; probably by smothering these dangmyeon noodles with gochujang.

Dangmyeon noodles 당면 (the ones in this recipe) are made with sweet potato and are especially great for those with celiac disease or those who are/or think they are sensitive to gluten and I guess would it would also be appreciated by those in the Paleo Diet Movement. For the rest of us mere mortals, these noodles are also great.

Originally, Japchae is made with beef but I decided to change to chicken because a) it’s cheaper and b) it’s what I had in the fridge. You can omit the meat altogether and make this a vegan dish by marinating just the shiitake mushrooms in the first step.  Also, you can add as many vegetables as you like but again I just used what was in my fridge; feel free to get creative and go wild.

This recipe calls for jidan (지단) which is a very popular type of garnish used in Korean cooking. Separating the yolk and white and making two different coloured (yellow and white) garnishes has the added bonus of harmonising Obangsaek (오방색) which is important in Korean culture. Obangsaek is the traditional Korean colour spectrum and is applied to all elements of traditional Korean elements such as clothing, symbols, architecture and of course, food. The colours (blue, red, yellow, white, black) represent five cardinal directions (east, south, centre, west, north) and five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water). Obangsaek in cooking is thought to ensure a physically and spiritually nutritious meal for all the five vital organs in the body and keeping life in the balance. Green (a combination of blue and yellow) is often substituted for blue as blue is not present naturally in many foods.

Ingredients

200g Dangmyeon noodles (Korean Sweet Potato noodles)

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized strips (can substitute for beef or completely omit)

8 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and cut into strips

Soy sauce

Sesame oil

Sugar

2 garlic cloves

Black pepper

Spinach

2 eggs

1 onion, sliced

2 carrots, julienned

Method

1 Marinade chicken and shiitake mushrooms with 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1 Tbsp. sugar, freshly ground black pepper, 1 minced garlic clove. Mix well and refrigerate until needed. Note: You can make this in advance and marinade the ingredients overnight.

2 Blanch spinach in boiling water for circa 30 seconds. Rinse in cold water and squeeze with hands to remove excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

japchae-1

3 In the same boiling water, add the dangmyeon noodles and cook for 5-7 minutes or until cooked. Make sure you stir every once in a while to prevent them from sticking together. Once cooked, drain and cut with scissors to make the strands slightly shorter. Transfer to the same mixing bowl as the spinach and season with 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Mix well and set aside.

japchae-2

4 Make jidan. Separate yolk and egg whites and beat in separate bowls. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and when hot remove excess with a paper towel. Fry the egg yolk and egg whites separately for a few seconds on each side on a medium-low flame. Leave to cool, roll up and cut into strips.

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5 Heat oil in a pan and cook onions to your preference, I like them half cooked. Remove and transfer to the mixing bowl with other ingredients.

6 Fry carrots in the same pan to your preference, again, I like them crunchy. Remove and transfer to the mixing bowl.

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7 In the same pan, add some more oil if needed and cook the chicken and shiitake mushrooms until cooked through. Remove and transfer to the mixing bowl.

8 Season the dangmyeon noodles and rest of the ingredients with 1 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1 minced garlic clove and plenty freshly ground black pepper. Mix well and then add the jidan just before serving.

japchae-4

Mina de Pollo (Sephardic Chicken Matzo Pie)

I am not Jewish but because of their history in Spain, I have always felt some kind of kinship with them. They existed in Spain for centuries even before the Moorish Conquest in 711 and it is safe to assume that they left their mark here even if the Catholic Monarchs tried to erase them from our history and lands. In fact, many contemporary Spanish have discovered that even though they had always thought they were Catholic, they were in fact Jewish (at least by blood). I know of one person in particular whose family had a tradition which involved lighting candles on Fridays nights for no apparent reason other than it was a family tradition. It was later that they found out that their ancestors were Jewish and the lighting of the candles was in fact what their ancestors would have done for Shabbat. There are stories like this across Spain and most probably don’t even realise it. Perhaps, my family is one of those, who knows?

Apart from this special link, one also has to take into account that even though these Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism and/or expelled from the Iberian Peninsula the descents of these people are still very much alive today, these are the Sefardim (or Sephardic Jews). These Jews have preserved the customs, traditions, music, food and even language of those Jews that were expelled from Spain and many of them still feel some kind of nostalgia for Spain even though they were never born here.

It is through music that much of the Spanish influence has been kept alive such as the language and the cuisine. The language, known as Ladino or Djudeo-espanyol, is Old Spanish mixed with Hebrew and words from the countries where they settled after being expulsed such as Morocco, Greece, Turkey and Bosnia. The cuisine is also a mix of what the Jews would have eaten in Spain mixed with the traditions of the countries where they later settled.

In my opinion, the fact that these people have hung on to the Spanish language, culinary traditions and other aspects of life after more than 500 years just proves that these people are in fact our brothers and sisters, the only difference is that they profess a different religion, a religion that is linked to Christianity and Islam as we are all Abrahamic religions or as we are called in Islam, Ahl al-kitab (people of the book).

To learn more about Sephardim I’d recommend a documentary called “El último sefardí” (The last Sephardic Jew). It’s in Spanish and Ladino but there is a version out there with English subtitles.

As my way of commemorating our lost brothers and sisters, I have decided to cook a Sephardic dish to celebrate Passover. I may not be Jewish but this does not mean that I can not respect them and join in something that my ancestors might have celebrated directly or indirectly, also Passover is a story that is in the Bible so it does to a certain extent concern Christians too.

This recipe is a for a dish featuring matzo (unleavened bread) which is central to Passover as when the Israelites were being liberated by God from Slavery in Egypt they were in such a rush that they didn’t have time for their bread to leaven. There are countless varieties of minas, also known as migina or meyina, some filled with chicken, others with meat and some are completely vegetarian. The one I bring to you today is an amalgamation of different minas I know from different Sephardic Cuisine specialists.

To get you into the spirit of Passover and the Sephardic legacy, I leave you with this link to a Sephardic song from Turkey sung in Ladino.

Pesaj a la mano 

LADINO

Purim, Purim, Purim lano

Pesaj, Pesaj a la mano.

Las masas si stan faziendo,

los yaprakis si stan koziendo.

Aman, aman, aman, aman, aman,

el Dio bendicho mos da mazal.

Purim, Purim, Purim lano,

Pesaj, Pesaj a la mano.

La nona sta diziendo a los nietos:

alimpia el polvo, kantones i los techos.

Aman, aman, aman, aman, aman,

el Dio bendicho mos da mazal.

Purim, Purim, Purim lano,

Pesaj, Pesaj a la mano.

El senyor rubi dijo a las tiyas,

no comer el pan ocho dias.

Aman, aman, aman, aman, aman,

el Dio bendicho mos da mazal.

ENGLISH

Purim, Purim, Purim has passed,

Passover, Passover is almost here.

The matzot are baking,

the rolls are being made.

Aman, aman, aman, aman, aman,

Blessed G-d give us good fortune.

Purim, Purim, Purim has passed,

Passover, Passover is almost here.

The grandma tells her grandchildren:

clean the dust from the corners and the roofs.

Aman, aman, aman, aman, aman,

Blessed G-D give us good fortune.

Purim, Purim, Purim has passed,

Passover, Passover is almost here.

The Rabbi told the aunts,

not to eat bread for eight days.

Aman, aman, aman, aman, aman,

Blessed G-d , give us good fortune

Ingredients

For the filling:

6 chicken thighs

Bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped

Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Bunch of fresh dill (or dried), roughly chopped

Bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1 onion, finely diced

3 Tbsp. chicken stock

2 large eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper, to taste

Others:

6 matzot or tortas cenceñas/pan ácimo

Olive oil

3 large eggs

Chicken stock

1 carrot

1/2 onion

2 bay leaves

4 peppercorns

Method

1 Bring a pan of cold water with the chicken thighs, carrot, onion, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves to boil. Simmer on medium for 30 minutes. Remove chicken and dice into small pieces. Reserve the cooking liquid, this will be your chicken stock to use later.

Mina de pollo 1

2 Mix the diced chicken with the mint, coriander, dill, parsley, onion, chicken stock, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well and reserve.

Mina de pollo 2

3 Submerge matzot in hot chicken stock for a few seconds to become pliable but not soggy.

4 Oil a baking dish and lay enough matzot to cover the bottom and then brush the surface with more oil. Cover with a layer of the chicken filling and repeat the process, much like a lasagne. You can make as many layers as you like but aim for at least 2 or 3 and leave the last layer with just matzot.

Mina de pollo 3

5 Brush the top layer of matzot with olive oil and then pour over 3 beaten eggs. Shake the baking dish to allow the eggs to get into every nook and crannie. 

6 Bake in a preheated 180ºc oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until the mina is golden brown.  

Mina de pollo 4

7 Cut into squares and serve immediately. Serve with salad such as Salata Maror.

 

magen david

PESAJ ALEGRE! CHAG SAMEACH! HAPPY PASSOVER!

Pork & Shiitake Wonton Soup

The base of this soup utilises the leftover stock from my Chinese Style Twice-Cooked Pork Belly.

First you need to make the wontons and then you can either boil them in the leftover stock like in this recipe, make a fresh batch of stock or fry in oil and serve with a dipping sauce of your choice such as Nuoc Cham.

Pork and Shiitake Wontons

Ingredients

Wonton skins

250g pork, minced

5 Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated & minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2cm fresh ginger, minced

1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. light soy sauce

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

Method

Mix together all the ingredients except the wonton skins.

Place a small amount of the filling in the centre of a wonton skin. Moisten the edges with water. Fold over and then using a chopstick gently press the centre of the filling inwards bringing the two sides together. Pinch the sides together to close (use a little water to help the ends stick together). Repeat process. You can also scrunch the sides together to form moneybags fold them into simple triangles or form into a myriad of different shapes.

Pork & Shitake Wontons

For the Pork and Shiitake Wonton Soup

Ingredients

Leftover stock from Chinese Style Twice-Cooked Pork Belly

1 Tbsp. Chinkiang Vinegar

Pork and Shiitake Wontons

2 handfuls bean sprouts

1 Carrot, julienned

1 spring onion, sliced

Method

1 Heat leftover stock. If the stock is too concentrated and intense you can water it down with some water.

2 Add wontons cook for 5 minutes or until they have floated to the top of the soup.

3 Add carrot and spring onion and cook for 1 minute if you like crunchy vegetables or longer if you don’t.

Pork & Shitake Wonton Soup

Leche Frita (Spanish “Fried Milk”)

I don’t think there is any other country in the world that has as many festivals as in Spain. We are quite known for our party lifestyle and most wonder when we actually get down to business as it always seems that we are constantly having days off in honour of some random Saint or Virgin (every city, town, village has their own one). I’m pretty sure that on most days of the year there is a at least one festival going on somewhere around the country.

At the moment we are in Carnival mode. In Valencia, where I live, Carnival isn’t a public holiday as there isn’t as much of a tradition to celebrate it, probably because a few weeks later we blow all our budget on Las Fallas, Valencia’s main festival. It is however, big business in my dad’s area (Galicia) where it is known as “entroido”, Cadiz, Tenerife and countless other areas around Spain.

As with most festivals, we have many recipes associated to these days, particularly sweets such as this one. Leche Frita, literally means fried milk, and is very popular in Northern Spain (the exact origin is disputed) during this time of the year and also Easter, which follows. The only way I can describe it is as fried custard squares.

Ingredients

1 litre milk

70g plain flour

70g cornflour (or cornstarch in US)

40g white sugar

1 lemon rind

1 cinnamon stick

4 eggs

Extras

Cinnamon sugar (white sugar mixed with cinnamon powder)

1 egg, beaten

Melted butter, to grease

Method

1 Heat 800ml of milk with lemon rind and cinnamon. Once it comes to a boil, remove from the heat and combine the sugar til it dissolves. Leave for 20 minutes to become warm and then remove the lemon rind and cinnamon stick.

2 Meanwhile, in a bowl add 200ml of cold milk and gradually beat in the flour, cornflour and eggs. Beat well and make sure there are no bumps. Gradually whisk this cold milk mixture to the warm milk mixture.

3 Return the pan to the heat and whisk until the mixture becomes thick. If for some reason the mixture splits you can use a hand immersion blender to fix it.

4 Grease a square/rectangle container (the size depends on the thickness you want the final product) with melted butter and pour in the leche frita mixture. Spread and bang on a surface to get rid of any air bubbles. Leave to cool and then chill in the fridge till it sets (at least 2 hours).

5 Run a knife around the edges of the container of leche frita mixture and turn it out. Cut into square or rectangles. Coat with flour, dip in beaten egg and fry in plenty hot oil.

6 Once fried, coat in cinnamon sugar.

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Eat warm or cold. Personally, I prefer them cold especially if there is a bit of vanilla ice-cream thrown into the mix.