Osaka Style Okonomiyaki

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According to the menus in Japanese okonomiyaki restaurants, I would say the most popular extra fillings are seafood such as shrimps and octopus, pork belly, and cheese. There are mainly two different styles of cooking okonomiyaki, one from Osaka and the other from Hiroshima. Osaka has been called “kitchen of the nation” for centuries, it is known for its inexpensive and abundant food culture. Today I’m gonna introduce the classic and simple Osaka style okonomiyaki.

First of all, let’s make a batter. Besides the obligatory ingredients(cabbage, egg, flour), I added in onions, leeks and baking powder, seasoned with soy sauce. It can be a little complicated if we really want to, by adding more ingredients such as grated yam, tempura scraps, or seasoning with Japanese dashi. About topping and garnishing, I strongly recommend to use the okonomi sauce, together with Japanese Mayonnaise. I’m not a fan of sauces in bottles normally, but when it comes to okonomiyaki, I just can’t say no. Feel free to put on bonito fish flakes if you like your okonomiyaki taste fishy. I finished topping with loads of dried seaweed and chopped spring onions, which gives every bite freshness and it looks gorgeous. Okay, shall we start?
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Ingredients:
(makes 2 okonomiyaki)
For the batter:
200g cabbage, thinly shredded
50g (a quarter of medium sized) onion, chopped
50g (15cm stalk) leek, chopped
2 eggs
100 plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp oil
salt to taste

For the topping:
okonomi sauce
kewpie mayonnaise
dried seaweed powderspring onions, chopped

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Methods:
1. Prepare a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the batter, it shouldn’t be too thick or too watery in the end. Add more flour or water to adjust.
2. Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan on a medium-low heat, pour the mixture into the pan, gently press it with a spatula to make a stable and round shape. Fry one side for about 5 minutes. Check the bottom, when the color turns golden brown, use the spatula to flip over and fry the other side for another 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
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3. Brush the surface with okonomi sauce, sprinkle dried seaweed powder, top with lots of spring onions, drizzle mayonnaise and okonomi sauce again. Itadakimasu (let’s eat ) !
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Winter Tagine

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Tagine is Morocco’s best-known dish: a slow-cooked stew in a large clay pot with a conical lid. This design allows the steam that evaporates from the food to drip down back into themselves, so to retain its juices.

Although tagine literally means this kind of clay pot, we don’t have to use a tagine pot to cook this tagine dish. With a few tricks, a regular clay pot or just a pot will bring us a pretty close result. The vegetables are tender(slow-cook), yet chunky(chop big), absorb the essences of the exotic spices mixed with cumin, coriander and turmeric, develop a balanced taste between sweet (dried apricots or raisins) and a little spicy (chili or harissa), hit the taste-buds with a fresh twist of lemon and parsley.

Again, you can use almost any kind of vegetables in this dish. My combination with pumpkin and sweet potato make my version a little sweet. They can be replaced by zucchini, eggplant or any other things you prefer. Serve the tagine as the Moroccans do – over couscous, or like me – with flat-bread to dip in the rich sauce.
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INGREDIENTS
(serves 2)
1 onion, 1 sweet potato, 1 red bell paprika (all medium sized), big chunk of pumpkin and radish, all roughly chopped
half stalk leek, cut into 2-3 pieces
half cup(100g) of dried chickpeas, cooked
3 garlic cloves, a 1cm chunk ginger, chopped
0.5L veggie stock
lemon and parsley
10 salted olives
5 dried apricots, sliced
1 tspn cumin powder
half tspn (each) coriander, chili and turmeric powder
salt and pepper, olive oil

Optional:
Greek yogurt, nuts, couscous/rice/bread
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METHODS
1. Heat olive oil in a clay pot on medium heat, sauté the onion for several minutes until soft. Add garlic, ginger and all the other powder spices, give a quick stir.
2. Add pumpkin, sweet potato, radish, paprika and leek, squeeze in half of a lemon juice, stir around for a few minutes before the veggies turning brown. Add the olives, apricots and cooked chickpeas, pour in the stock until the veggies are almost covered. Season with salt and pepper. Turn on low heat, put the lid on. Let it slow-cook for at least 30 minutes. Stir gently 1-2 times in between.
3. Turn off the heat. The vegetables are still in good shapes, but getting nicely tender and we don’t want to crush them. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and lemon zest, serve the tagine with Greek yogurt over couscous.
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Kimchi Ramen

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There was some kimchi in the fridge the other day that was totally staring me down. Therefore, this quick and easy Kimchi Ramen recipe was born. It’s a perfect dish for winter, if you are fond of spicy. To prepare the broth will take you about 20-25 minutes. As long as all the ingredients are thrown in the pot, you can leave it to simmer. The broth will turn out to be intense and flavourful because of the kimchi and miso paste. By adding apple and lemon, the taste will be balanced with slightly fruity sweetness. For the noodle, you can top on any kinds of veggies you like, or a soft boiled egg would also match perfectly. I put in broccoli and tofu in my bowl. And I’ll introduce my favourite way to prepare tofu: freeze it! Freezing tofu removes excess moisture and firms the texture up. It also allows the tofu more able to soak up sauces in a soup dish with a pleasant chew. Sometimes when I can’t use up a fresh tofu, I’ll pop the rest into the freezer and it can be kept well for weeks. When it’s time to use again, take it out in room temperature for overnight, let it defrosted and good to cook!

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INGREDIENTS
(serves 2)
200g ramen or other noodle
100g frozen tofu, defrosted and cut
1 handful broccoli
2 spoonful kimchi
Half cup sliced leek or spring onion
QUICK BROTH
1 onion, cut
Half apple, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1cm chunk ginger, crushed
Half cup kimchi
3 tbsp miso paste
4 cups water

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METHODS
1. Mix together all the ingredients (except miso paste) for the broth, simmer for 20 minutes. Mix in miso after 20 minutes and remove from heat. Strain the broth, discard the solids and return the broth to pot. Taste and add more salt if prefer.
2. Put tofu and broccoli into the broth, cook for 3-5 minutes. Cook the noodle in another pot with boiling water.
3. Prepare a bowl, combine noodle, broccoli and tofu, pour over 2 cups of broth and top with a spoonful kimchi, sprinkle some leeks and spring onions. Have a good one!

Winter Tart

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I explored some fancy fennel, artichoke and beetroot on the market for this tart. But you can vary the vegetables and use other ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, carrots or parsnips. I also mixed in some blue cheese. If that’s not your cup of tea, feel confident to use feta or cottage cheese instead. The short crust pastry is not the healthiest item in the world, but for special occasions, it transforms simple ingredients into something fun and festive. It’s easy to make and one of the most versatile pastries as it can be used for both savory and sweet dishes. Shortcrust pastry is nothing more than a mixture of flour, butter and several spoonful cold water.

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INGREDIENTS
200g all purpose flour
100g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup cold water
1 fennel bulb, quartered
1 small beet, quartered
1 artichoke, cooked and cut
big chunk pumpkin, cubed
1 bell paprika, cut
bunch of parsley / dill, roughly chopped
blue / feta / cottage cheese
salt, pepper and olive oil

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METHODS
1. Mix the flour with a pinch of salt in a bowl. Use your fingers to mix the flour with cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour in some spoons of cold water, the mixture will begin to mix and knead the dough until a ball forms. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour.
2. Preheat oven to 180℃, arrange prepared vegetables on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until the beetroots are starting to soften. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt, put aside and let them cool down.
3. On a floured table surface, roll the dough out into a round shape and then ransfer to a baking sheet. Move some roasted veggies into the dough. Sprinkle with herbs and cheese. Repeat layering until you run out of ingredients. Fold the edges of the pastry over the veggies to make it fit. Bake for 40 minutes in the oven. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Lentil-stuffed Eggplant

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Preparing the eggplant bowl is the funnest part: first use a knife to cut the surface on one side, then scrape the inner flesh out with a spoon. Stuff the “bowl” with cooked lentils, bake simply until golden brown and you will have a saucy, satisfying dinner on your hands. This is a perfect hearty entrée or side dish which presents itself great when host friends. It’s delicious on its own, but it would also pair well with rice or vegetable/grain salads.

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INGREDIENTS
(serves 2)
2 small eggplants
100g red lentils, soaked overnight
half medium sized onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small sized tomatoes, finely chopped
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric (each)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley or coriander
salt and pepper, olive oil
Parmesan cheese for topping, herbs for garnish
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METHODS
1. Boil the lentils in a pot with enough water, reduce the heat to simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils are softened. Drain and put aside. Preheat the oven to 185℃.
2. Use a knife to cut the center out of the eggplants (better to use a spoon to scrape after the first cut). Leave enough eggplant flesh so it’s strong enough to hold the lentils later.
3. Heat a large pot over medium-low heat. Add oil and the eggplants, cover and cook on one side for 4-5 minutes. Flip the eggplants over on the other side, cover and cook for another 4-5 minutes. The eggplants should be softened and browned on the outside.
4. Set another pot on medium heat, add some oil and gently sautee the onion and garlic for 3 minutes, add in the bell peppers and tomatoes, season with tomato puree and all the listed powder, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Put in the cooked lentils and parsley, keep stirring until they’re mixed well.
5. Place cut-side up in a baking container and top with lentils. There would be some more lentils left, place them under the eggplants in the dish. Top with Parmesan cheese.
6. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until the eggplants are browned.Serve as is or over rice. Garnish with fresh herbs. Best when fresh, also good as leftovers.微信图片_201811071546593

One Pot Curry

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Like most of you guys, I have a few favorite dinner recipes that rotate at least a couple of times each month, such as Frittata, Shakshuka, Paella and Minestrone soup. They are simple comforting food that all of my friends love and most importantly: they are from the recipes that I always have the ingredients within reach at home. Another dish that has made it into my regular recipe list is this one pot curry.

We can start with a base of onion, garlic and ginger, spice with a spoonful of curry paste, turmeric and cumin powder, then add whatever vegetables we have at hand, fill up with coconut milk. When it’s nicely cooked, add some green leaves and let them quickly wilt down without loosing its freshness. It’s a very likable dish which is easy to adapt to whatever flavors you prefer. Chili would be a good addition if you like it spicy. Replace any of the vegetables with whatever is in season: pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes or eggplants will all fit right in. I always make a big pot of this so I have lunch or dinner sorted for another day. It keeps well in the fridge and the flavors will develop even further. Try it, tweak it and make it into your own recipe list!

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INGREDIENTS
(serves 2-3)
1 chopped medium sweet potato
1 handful split broccoli and cauliflower
1 can coconut milk
100g cubed tofu
1 handful Bok Choy
1 chopped onion
2 minced cloves garlic
1 small chunk ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin

serve with
a handful pan roasted cashew nuts
roasted black sesame seeds

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METHODS
1. Add oil to a large sauce pan on medium heat, sautée the onion, garlic and ginger together with curry paste, turmeric and cumin. Stir for a few minutes until the onion is soft.
2. Add the sweet potato, broccoli and cauliflower to the pan, stir around to make sure nothing is burnt. Pour in the coconut milk and tofu. Cook for 15 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft and tender. Remove from the heat, add green leaves and stir around. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
3. Serve in bowls with cooked rice, top with roasted cashew nuts and black sesame seeds.

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Jacket Potato

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As long as there are a few potatoes at home, I know that I have at least one option for dinner. Whether topped with a simple scoop of butter or baked beans, jacket potato is a “hard to go wrong” meal when I want something healthy, easy and warm.

When well cooked, a baked potato has a fluffy interior and a crispy skin. The “jacket” is the brown outer skin formed by baking. Make sure to wash the potato and prick it all over with a fork. Pricking the skin will let the steam inside the cooking potato escape without the risk of exploding. Be generous with both the oil and the salt. It’s what gives the potatoes that amazing flavor and makes you want to eat the skin.

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Topping is the fun part as always. I prepared some baked kidney beans, with onion and paprika, in tomato sauce. Add more cheese and herbs on the top. It turned out to be a pretty hearty meal with proper sized portion. You can also make them as side dishes to share, even only put a tablespoon of butter would be simple and great.

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INGREDIENTS
(serves 2)
4 medium sized potatoes, washed
half onion, 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bell paprika, chopped
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
half tin of cooked kidney beans
parsley, cheese, sour cream
salt and pepper, olive oil

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METHODS
1. Preheat the oven to 175℃. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and prick them with a fork. Cook the potatoes for 50 to 60 minutes, until their skin is crispy, and soft inside.
2. While the potatoes are in the oven, let’s prepare the toppings. Sautée the onion and garlic in a pot on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add in the beans, paprika, cook for another 5 minutes. Put in the tomatoes, stir well. Season with salt, pepper and handful of parsley. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. When the potatoes are done, give each a long shallow cut with a knife. Once cool down, use your hands to squeeze the potato into a “bowl” shape.
4. Top the cooked beans on the potatoes, sprinkle some cheese on the surface, bake them again for 1-2 minutes in the oven, to let the cheese melt. Add a scoop of sour cream, garnish with some parsley. Enjoy!微信图片_201811071529501

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Teriyaki Tofu

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Teriyaki is a cooking technique used in Japanese cuisine in which foods are grilled with a glaze of special sauce. The word “teriyaki” derives from the noun “teri”, which refers to a shine given by the sugar content in the “yaki” ( a cooking method of grilling).

It’s actually hard to find someone who doesn’t like Teriyaki. The teriyaki sauce can be versatile to match with different ingredients, no matter weather you are meat-lover or vegetarian. Teriyaki sauce is definitely the soul of any teriyaki dish. We are gonna make the sauce today, and there is no need to buy teriyaki sauce in stores ever again! This teriyaki sauce is so easy to make, the ingredients are likely already in your kitchen and the sauce is ready in 10 minutes. You can make a bigger batch and keep it in the fridge up to a week.

There are many kinds of tofu available based on texture preference. Since we are lightly frying the tofu pieces, firm tofu will have more compact structure and keep in shape when you flip them over in the pan. I cut them into 1cm thick triangles so I only have to fry two sides. You can also cut them into squares if you don’t mind to fry six sides. Each piece of lightly crisp and tender tofu glazed with savory sauce is super satisfying. I like to add some extra vegetables like steamed green soybeans, fresh carrots and sprouts to accompany this meal.

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INGREDIENTS
(serves 2)
200g firm tofu, cut into 1cm thick, drained on paper towels
steamed green soybeans
fresh carrots and sprouts
green onions
sesame seeds

Teriyaki sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced ginger, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup water

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METHODS
1. In a small pot over medium heat, mix all of the ingredients for the sauce except for cornstarch and the cold water. In another bowl, whisk the cornstarch and cold water until dissolved. Add this mixture to the sauce in the pot and mix well, heat until sauce thickens about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
2. In a large nonstick pan, heat some oil over medium-high heat. Cook the tofu for 3 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crisp. Turn over and cook another 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate with paper towels.
3. Whisk the teriyaki sauce and add to the pan. When it comes to a boil, add in tofu, stir to coat and turn off heat. Give a generous amount of sesame seeds.
4. Prepare a bowl of cooked rice, top with steamed green soybeans, fresh carrots and sprouts, teriyaki tofu. Add more sauce on top of the rice if there’s any left in the pan. Garnish with spring onions.

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Summer Pasta Salad

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Good summer starts with a good salad. This vegetable pasta salad is loaded with a variety of veggies and seasoned with homemade pesto. It’s so easy to make, all you need to do is boil a large pot of pasta, chop up the veggies and toss it together with the dressing.Just take whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. I boiled some asparagus, chopped a handful of cherry tomatoes, a few sun-dried tomatoes. You can use other veggies that you prefer such as zucchini, bell pepper, olives and so on. Then toss them with the pasta together with dressing. I made a quick batch of this yummy pesto (I wrote this pesto recipe in a previous issue: link). It’s so fresh, herbal, flavorful and rich. This classic pesto is made of basil, parsley, roasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil. But again, my golden rule for making great pesto is: herbs/greens + nuts + cheese + olive oil = awesomeness. So, literally you can’t go wrong by following this. If you want it to be more simple, make your version of vinaigrette instead of pesto, by mixing an oil with something acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, balanced with salt, herbs or other spices. In the end, toss some roasted nuts, cheese and herbs to complete this wonderful salad. It can easily be served as a main dish instead of a side.
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INGREDIENTS
(serves 3)
300g dry pasta (I use fusilli)
A small bunch of asparagus, peeled and roughly chopped
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
A few sun dried tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
3 tbsp roasted peanuts
4 tbsp classic pesto (pesto recipe link) or other dressing
Parmesan cheese and parsley for garnishing

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METHODS
1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. When the pasta is almost done, put the asparagus into the boiling water for 30 seconds too. Drain the pasta and asparagus, rinse under cold water until no longer hot. Set aside.
2. Add the pasta, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, together in a large container and mix with a generous amount of pesto. Toss until the pasta and veggies are evenly coated with the dressing.
3. Top with roasted peanuts, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and herbs. Feel free to add chopped avocado! This colorful and delicious pasta salad is ready to share, enjoy!

Homemade Sauerkraut

When the temperature doesn’t seem to be going down, let’s make good use of it. Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. It has rich source of probiotics which is great for our immune system and gut health. If you’re interested in adding some fermented fare into your diet, learning how to make sauerkraut is the perfect place to start.

Unlike most of the conventional pickled vegetables in the supermarkets, which often contain preservatives and artificial ingredients, this recipe is super simple and natural, doesn’t have any nasty ingredient, only cabbage and salt. Normal green cabbage is fine, but red cabbage is much more beautiful because of the color, and has ten times more vitamin A and twice as much iron as green cabbage. You can also put some grated garlic, sliced apple or chopped chili into the sauerkraut, to add more flavor. It doesn’t take too long to start the fermentation in summer, the whole process lasts only a few days. So, as soon as it reaches your desired flavor, stop the fermentation by moving it in the fridge. The sauerkraut can be kept in the fridge for several months. You can add it into salads, sandwiches, or as a side dish.

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INGREDIENTS
2 medium sized red cabbage, 1.5kg
2 tsp sea salt
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METHODS
1. Peel the outer leaves from the cabbage, rinse it in the water, cut into thin strips.
2. Prepare a large bowl, mix the cabbage and salt together. Use a thick stick, such as a rolling pin or pestle, to pound the cabbage, until they become softer and their juices are released.
3. Place cabbage(includes the liquid) into a jar or fermenting vessel. Use your fist to press in the cabbage tightly into the jar. The brine can more or less cover the cabbage.
4. Close the jar, put a plate under the jar, because the juice can be escaping during the bubbling fermentation. In summer, allow to ferment for 3 days, less if your kitchen is warm, more if cold. It’s better to keep it close in the first 3 days. After that, you can always open and taste, to decide if you want it keep fermenting, or stop fermenting by store it in the refrigerator.
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