Ninniku-Shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce Infused Garlic)

During the summer I was given a sack of garlic freshly harvested from the fields surrounding my mum’s village deep in La Mancha. La Mancha (a historic area belonging to Castilla La Mancha) is actually famous for its purple garlic known as Morado de Cuenca from the Allium Sativum L species and it even boasts the coveted Indication of Geographic Protection (IGP) designation. Great stuff!

ajo-morado

I shared it out among family and friends but I still had an overwhelming amount of garlic leftover so I made my favourite Spanish Garlic and Parsley Marinade which I always have in my fridge. As I still had loads of garlic left my friend who had lived in Japan recommended me to soak whole garlic cloves in soy sauce and leave to infuse for 3-4 weeks; so that’s what I did. Apparently, it’s a secret weapon used in many Japanese households as it can instantly transform stir-fries without much more seasoning. I was advised to use it in regular egg-fried rice  and am so glad that I did; such a small thing really does make a difference and elevates the dish to new heights!

The soy sauce also transforms into something more complex so feel free to use it too. However make sure the garlic is always covered by the soy sauce; if it runs low you can always top it up with regular light soy.

Ingredients

As much garlic as your heart desires

Enough light soy sauce to completely cover the garlic.

Method

1 Peel garlic and put in a jar. Top up with enough light soy sauce to completely cover the garlic.

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2 Store in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. When the garlic has changed into a brownish colour, it is ready to use. If you store it in the fridge it can keep for a long time.

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ข้าวมันไก่ Khao Man Gai (Thai Style Hainanese Chicken Rice)

What comes to mind when you think of Thai cuisine? I can imagine that for most people the usual suspects of Pad Thai and Green/Red/Yellow Curry spring to mind and then you are a bit lost. I admit it, I was one of those people. However, after having the pleasure of making Thai friends I have been introduced to more hardcore and less familiar dishes which you probably won’t find in your local Thai restaurant such as Nam Prik Pla Tu (Spicy Mackerel Paste) served with fried aubergine and cucumber, amazing homemade Sai Oua (Northern Thai Sausage) courtesy of Kwanta Kosayothin whose recipe I am dying to get my hands on, Nam Tok Moo (Spicy Pork Salad similar to the more well-known Laab) and to finish off on a sweet note, Khao Niew Mamuang (Mango & Sticky Rice).  I love making friends with international people, mainly because of the food experiences that come with them. Thank you Nantisara Pipattanananti for coming into my life and opening my eyes (and belly) to this absolutely amazing cuisine!

Today’s recipe is one of those dishes that isn’t as well known to outside of Thailand: Khao Man Gai. It’s Thailand’s answer to Hainanese Chicken Rice and although the origin of the dish is from Hainan (Chinese Province), the major difference from the original is the dipping sauce that is served alongside the dish. Hainanese Chicken Rice is actually very popular across South East Asia and is even considered the National dish of Singapore.

Khao Man Gai literally means “oily rice chicken” as the rice is cooked in chicken fat. I must admit that the translation doesn’t sound all that appealing which is probably why in English it’s known as Hainanese Chicken Rice.  Traditionally, the rice and chicken is served with a dipping sauce, cucumber, coriander, liver and congealed chicken blood. I’ve decided to skip the liver and blood though…

Traditionally the dipping sauce (and all curry pastes) is made in a large pestle and mortar but you can also use a food processor although the consistency will be affected. I actually used my grandmother’s old pestle and mortar which was solely used to make a traditional dish from La Mancha called Ajoarriero (Salt Cod and Potato “Paté”). Never had this mortar come into contact with such “exotic” ingredients in all its decades of existence before!

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This recipe includes a few ingredients that you may be unfamiliar with if you are new to Thai cuisine (I had never heard of them before…).

1) Tao Jiew (เต้าเจี้ยว): Thai Fermented Soybean Paste. It is similar to Japanese miso or Korean doenjang and you if you have trouble finding the Thai stuff you could try substituting with one of these.

2) See Ew Dam (ซีอิ๊วดำ): known as Black Soy Sauce, it’s a thick type of soy sauce which has a sweet flavour. If you can’t find it you could try substituting with Indonesian Kecap Manis or Chinese Dark Soy Sauce but it is quite different.

3) Coriander roots: the roots of coriander (duh!). It is quite hard to find but sometimes you can find some roots still attached to coriander in Chinese supermarkets. You can try substituting with twice the amount of coriander stalks or omit entirely.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken (mine was 2.2kg)

4 slices fresh ginger

4 whole garlic cloves, smashed

Coriander roots (if available)

1 spring onion

Salt, to taste

For the rice:

Chicken fats

5 cm fresh ginger, finely diced

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 parts Thai Jasmine rice (no need to rinse in water)

4 parts chicken stock (from cooking the chicken)

For the dipping sauce:

5cm ginger, sliced

5cm ginger, finely diced

4 Thai Bird’s eye chillies, sliced

3 Tbsp. Tao Jiew

1 ½ Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. See Ew Dam

1 ½ lemons, juiced

Garnishes:

Cucumber, sliced

Fresh coriander

Method

1 Remove excess chicken fat from the neck area and parson’s nose. If you don’t have much chicken fat you can use half fat and half vegetable oil. Reserve for later.

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2 In a large stock pot add the ginger, spring onion, garlic cloves, coriander roots, salt and the whole chicken including its head and feet (if you have them). Cover the chicken completely with cold water. Bring to a slow boil and once  you can see steam, turn the heat down to low; the water should not be a rolling boil. In Thailand they call this cooking the chicken in “still water”. Cook for a 40 minutes half covered (vary time according to your chicken; the meat should be cooked through but not falling off the bone), flipping the chicken halfway through cooking time. Remember to remove any of the scum that floats to the top once in a while. When the chicken is cooked, remove and leave to cool.

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3 Render chicken fats in a saucepan until you get at least a few tablespoons of chicken oil. If you don’t get enough oil from the chicken fats you can also use some vegetable oil.

4 Fry garlic and ginger in this oil along with the chicken fats and then add the rice. Coat the rice well with all the chicken oil and then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on a low flame for 10 -12 minutes (times may vary according to the rice you buy-check packaging).

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5 Make the dipping sauce by crushing ginger slices in large mortar until it becomes like a paste. Next add the finely diced ginger, chillies, Tao Jiew, sugar, See Ew Dam and lemon juice. Combine well. Adjust to your personal taste if needed.

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Assembly

Carve the chicken by removing the drumsticks, thighs and both breasts. Remove the bones from the dark meat and slice all chicken into large pieces. The chicken is not served hot.

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Lay whatever chicken you prefer (I always go for dark meat) on a bed of rice. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with cucumber and fresh coriander.

You can also eat it alongside a bowl of chicken broth especially in the winter when it’s colder. Some people also cook some winter melon in the stock but personally I prefer it plain.

khao-man-gai

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.

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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.

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White Bean & Pomegranate “Hummus”

I found half a bag of dried white beans in the pantry and thought to myself what I could do with them; making a wholesome and warming white bean stew was out of the question as we are well and truly in summer weather (urgh it’s so hot and it’s not even August yet…) so I decided to experiment and see if white beans would work well in a hummus instead of using chickpeas.

As hummus in Arabic literally means chickpeas this dish is not really a hummus per se but I have no other name for it; puree just doesn’t sound all that exciting. Also white bean on its own was also quite bland so I pimped it up with pomegranate molasses and sumac. I sometimes use pomegranate molasses in proper hummus too; give it a go if you haven’t tried it before. In fact, pomegranate in anything is always a welcomed addition.

Ingredients

2 cups dried white beans

1 cup white bean stock

2 garlic cloves

1 Tbsp. tahini

3 ½ Tbsp. pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. sumac

Salt, to taste

Method

1 Soak dried white beans in plenty cold water and leave to soak overnight on a countertop. After time has elapsed, wash in cold water and rinse. Cook in a pressure cooker for 25 minutes.

White Bean & Pomegranate Hummus 1

2 Blitz 3 cups of cooked white beans along with garlic, tahini, sumac and salt. Then gradually add the liquids (stock, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses) according to your own taste and desired consistency.

White Bean & Pomegranate Hummus 2

3 Refrigerate for a couple hours or even overnight as it tastes better cold. To serve, swirl over some more pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with extra sumac and then devour with Lebanese bread.

White Bean & Pomegranate Hummus

 

Loquat & Ginger Juice (without juicer)

One of the many advantages of living in Spain is that even if you live in a big city you are bound to know someone who either has a second home in the mountains or by the sea, has a village they go back to often or has some patch of land where they grow fruits and vegetables. The plus point of this is that you are more than likely going to receive bulks of homegrown produce for free. On this particular occasion, I received a sack of loquats from some friends who have a beautiful second house in the mountains with a large kitchen garden. Shout out to Isthar & Miguel, thanks ever so much my lovelies! My first idea when confronted with this ridiculous amount of loquats was to make loquat juice because it is not something that is common to find in juice form.

This recipe is aimed at those people (like me) who do not have a juicer. This is what I call the traditional method of making juice which involves a blender and a cheesecloth. If you don’t even have a blender you can squash the fruit with a fork or even a pestle and mortar. There is no need to actually peel the fruits but I find that it is easier to extract the juice from the fruit as there’ll be less “waste” to deal with later.

Loquats are not very common in the UK but they are big in Spain and I hear that they are extremely popular in California. They taste like a cross between a peach and an apricot. The only downside of the fruit is that the season is very short!

If you choose to peel the fruits before making the juice, this is the way I tackle the task:

1 Cut either end off and make an incision from the top to the bottom of the fruit.

2 Pull the fruit apart.

3 Take out the seeds and peel. The peel should come off easily and in one go.

How to peel loquat

To make the juice

Ingredients

Loquats, peeled

Large piece fresh ginger (no need to peel)

Method

1 Blend the loquats and ginger into a puree. If you want a loquat smoothie you can leave it like this or add some milk of your choice or yoghurt.

Loquat & Ginger Juice 1

2 Place a fine mesh sieve on top of a jug and line with a cheesecloth. Pour the loquat and ginger puree and using the back of a spoon or a pestle stir the puree. When most juice has filtered into the jug, gather all sides of the cheesecloth and twist into a ball; gently squeeze all the juice out.

Loquat & Ginger Juice 2

3 Once you have extracted as much of the juice, place in refrigerator and chill for a few hours before serving, unless you are partial to warm juice.

Feel free to add sugar, honey or any other sweetener of your choice but I prefer to enjoy the natural sweetness/tartness of the fruit.

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Conejo al ajillo (Spanish Garlic Rabbit)

If you don’t like garlic, look away as this dish is packed with garlic; just remember to have some mints handy if you need to socialize afterwards. This is probably one of the most popular and traditional ways to make rabbit in Spain but fear not if you are squeamish about rabbit as you can easily substitute it with chicken; in fact Pollo al ajillo (Garlic Chicken) is also very popular.

Ingredients

1/2 rabbit, cut into pieces

Salt & pepper, to taste

1 whole head garlic

4 garlic cloves, medium-thickly sliced

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. dried thyme (or stick of fresh thyme)

2 tsp. dried rosemary

2 small parsley stalks

1 glass white wine

1 glass water

Method

1 Season rabbit with salt and pepper and then fry along with the whole garlic head until the garlic head is soft and the rabbit has browned on both sides. When the rabbit is half cooked, add the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme.

Conejo al ajillo 1

2 Once the garlic head is soft, remove and peel (or squeeze out the flesh). Place garlic cloves in a pestle and mortar along with the fresh parsley and pound. Add white wine and mix well.

Conejo al ajillo 2

3 Add garlic slices to the rabbit and then add the pounded garlic and parsley mix along with a glass of water.

4 Cook on a medium heat until the liquid has practically evaporated.

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