Recipe: Bao buns with pork belly, spicy mayo and peanuts

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Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, Bao London should be very flattered that I attempted to make my own version of their amazing pork bao buns.

No, it’s nowhere near as good as theirs, but that was never the goal, instead it’s a very nice homemade version of the real thing. And for being a first attempt I think i did pretty well!

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The recipe I used for the dough, is actually from Bao but I used regular plain flour rather than bleached so the buns look a little dull compared to the ones you see in restaurants or Asian supermarkets. I also added more flour as couldn’t shape mine otherwise, but I will publish the recipe I used rather than my version of it, but if you have the same problem as I did, then it works to add more flour.

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I steamed the buns in a regular bamboo steamer with parchment paper at the bottom. So easy!

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The finished buns looked pretty good!

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While making the buns this pork belly was cooking in the oven. So yum!

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And here you see my condiments (clockwise from top left); quick-pickled cucumber, chopped coriander, hot mayo, chopped spring onions and chopped peanuts.

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I made a second version with leftover bulgogi chicken and used the mayo, coriander and spring onions for that one, and for the pork bao I used the mayo, pickled cucumber, peanuts and coriander. Both were really yummy but I must say the pork one was my favourite!

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Bao buns, makes around 20 (you need 2-3 per person)

Adapted from Bao London’s recipe.

500 g plain flour – bleached if you can find it in Chinese supermarkets (it gives that brilliant white colour)
2 tsp yeast
145 ml warm water
2 pinches salt
50g sugar
15 ml vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
145 ml milk

Mix flour, yeast and warm water together in a bowl. Cover and leave for at least 30 minutes in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until it comes together as one.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes – it will be sticky but gradually become more elastic.

Break off 40 g dough and give it a quick knead, forcing it into an oval shape. Roll it out until around 2-3 mm thick and brush one side with vegetable oil.

Fold one side over the other and press down gently so it forms an oyster shell shape. Place on parchment paper in a warm bamboo steamer and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Steam for 15 minutes – the bun will rise and puff up but will be easy to break open.

Pork belly

1 pork belly 

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 125C. Place the pork in a buttered dish. Massage the salt into the rind and season the meat all over. Put in the oven and cook for two hours or until the meat is very tender.

Turn the heat up to 250C and cook the meat for another 10 minutes until the crackling is nice and crispy.

Spicy mayo

100 ml Hellman’s mayo

2-3 tsp Gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

a pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. 

Pickled cucumber

1/2 cucumber

1 tsp salt

75 ml caster sugar

acetic acid solution, also called sweet vinegar (1 part acetic acid  + 6-7 parts water)

1 tbsp water

Thinly slice the cucumber. This is easily done with a cheese slicer or potato peeler. Put the cucumber in a jar or bowl and pour in the salt and sugar, next add the acetic acid solution and water. Stir and make sure the salt and sugar dissolves. 

Bao buns with pork belly, spicy mayo and peanuts

bao buns, as above

pork belly, as above – cut into slices

spicy mayo, as above

pickled cucumber, as above

salted peanuts, finely chopped

coriander, finely chopped

Open the buns and spread some mayo onto the bottom half. Place two slices of pork belly on top, add a dollop of mayo and pickled cucumber. Scatter with chopped peanuts and coriander. 

Bao buns with bulgogi chicken, spicy mayo and spring onions

bao buns, as above

bulgogi chicken

spicy mayo, as above

spring onions, thinly sliced

coriander, finely chopped

Open the buns and spread some mayo onto the bottom half. Place two -three pieces of chicken on top, add a dollop of mayo and scatter with spring onions and coriander. 

 

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Recipe: Kale quiche with almond slivers and mature cheese

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Already in November I celebrated Christmas the Scandi way with the book club. It’s a nice little tradition and this year we outdid ourselves with carol singing! It was so much fun and the perfect way for me to get into the Christmas spirit.

We started the evening with the loveliest mushrooms salad on crostini, plenty of prosecco and my epic Christmas playlist.

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Then we moved on to the main meal of Jansson’s frestelse (grated potato baked with onions, anchovies and cream), two types of meatballs, a salad with pear and walnuts and this kale and almond quiche with Swedish Herrgård cheese.

But the pièce de résistance was Mary-Louise’s pecan and almond pie for pudding. So lovely and timed well as it was around Thanksgiving!

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Kale and almond quiche with Herrgård cheese, serves 8-10

Pastry:

120 g softened butter

300 ml plain flour

1/2 beaten egg

Filling:

500 g kale, trimmed, rinsed and parboiled

50 g almond slivers

200 ml matured Herrgård cheese, grated (matured cheddar works as well) 

3 eggs

100 ml cream

200 ml milk

salt and pepper

Pinch the pastry together and coat a pie dish with it. Use a fork to make small holes in the pastry. Pre-bake it for 10 minutes in 180C. Leave to cool.

Squeeze the water out of the kale and chop it. Add salt and pepper to the kale and place in the the tin. Scatter with almond slivers and add the cheese.  

Beat eggs, cream and milk. Add plenty of salt and pepper. Pour into the tin and press the filling down so it’s all covered with the egg mixture. Bake in 180C for about 40 mins (until set and golden brown). 

 

Recipe: Shakshuka with yoghurt and feta

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At the brunch in December I introduced my friends to shakshuka, which they all loved. It’s such a great brunch dish if there is several of you as you can make the tomato sauce ahead and then cooked the eggs in the oven. If I make a smaller portion for lunch or dinner I cook it in a frying pan on the hob and cover the pan with a lid, as it’s quicker than heating up the oven.

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My version of shakshuka has the usual base of peppers, onions and tomatoes as well as tinned tomatoes to make it saucy. After baking the eggs in the oven I add the toppings; Greek yoghurt, crumbled feta and chilli flakes. If I made this just for myself I would have added some Tabasco as well, but here I left it on the side so everyone could help themselves if they wanted more of a kick.

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Bacon isn’t really necessary with this egg dish, but it works so well at brunch (and with the mushroom omelette) I thought it was a nice addition.

Scandelight’s shakshuka, serves 4-6

1 shallots, chopped

1 small garlic clove, chopped

2 bell peppers (of any colour), chopped

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 large tin (400 g) tinned chopped tomatoes

30 ml water

salt, black pepper

a pinch of sugar

6 medium eggs

200 ml full-fat Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 lemon

chilli flakes

1/2 packet feta 

Pour a little oil in a large frying pan or saucepan. Fry the garlic and onions until golden (not brown). Remove from the pan. Fry the peppers until soft and add the fresh tomatoes. Add the garlic and onions and stir on medium heat until nice and soft. Add the tinned tomatoes and water and stir occasionally. Season to taste with plenty of salt, black pepper and sugar if needed. Let the mixture thicken. 

If using a frying pan, make six “holes” in the mixture and crack an egg in each. Cover with a lid and cook until the whites are set.

If using an oven, transfer the tomato mixture to an oven-proof dish and pre-heat the oven to 180C. Make “holes” in the tomato mixture and crack an egg in each hole. Bake until the whites are set. 

In the meantime, mix yoghurt with salt, pepper, lemon juice to taste and olive oil. 

When the eggs are cooked, remove from the hob or oven and add dollops of yoghurt to the pan/dish. Sprinkle with crumbled feta and chilli flakes. Serve with some nice bread. 

Recipe: cheese toastie with Maroilles

I don’t know if it was because I’d just seen Nigella make a brie, parma ham and fig toastie on her latest TV show or just the fact that I am perpetually in the mood for a cheese toastie, but as it happens two weekends ago, I knew just how I would use the Maroilles cheese a French colleague had given me the same week. In return he got a nice piece of Swedish Herrgård cheese, matured for 18 months. But back to the Maroilles.

When talking to French people, food as a conversation topic is never far away. And that’s how I found out that this Maroilles cheese, from the area of Picardy, is both delicious and probably the smelliest cheese in the world. To me that’s more intriguing than off-putting and I was super excited when I tried it. Similar to Reblochon, it’s a washed rind cheese with a lot of flavour, but it’s much creamier, and dare I say, delicious.

This cheese toastie is utterly simple to make, but very rewarding when you bite into the crisp bread with melted cheese oozing out on the sides.

Maroilles cheese toastie, per toastie

2 slices Poilâne bread

salted butter

2 thick slices of Maroilles cheese

Butter the two Poilane slices on one side. Place the cheese on one of the buttered surfaces and spread them it out so it covers the whole bread slice. Place the other slice of bread on top, buttered side down (i.e. touching the cheese). Press the sandwich together. 

Now, melt a generous knob of butter in a frying pan on medium-high heat (3-4 out of 6) and place the sandwich in the pan. You don’t want the butter to burn so if unsure lower the heat. You want the sandwich to be golden on both sides and the cheese to melt inside so it takes a few minutes on each side.

Fry until golden brown on one side, pressing down with a spatula. Turn the sandwich and fry the other side. Once crisp and golden and the cheese has started to ooze out on the sides remove from pan and place on kitchen roll to remove excess butter. Pat the top of the sandwich with kitchen roll too, then cut into half and serve. Yu-um. 

PS. This is what I love the most about food; it brings people together. My colleague thought the Herrgård was a nice addition to his cheese board, with otherwise only French cheeses I presume, and I got to try a cheese I had never heard of until he boasted about the best produce from his region in France. Merci!

Recipe: courgette and chilli fritters

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Sometimes I forget how genius some dishes are. Like fritters. They’re always satisfying to eat (any time of day) but never too heavy. And they contain vegetables which basically means they’re healthy right?!

 

Courgette fritters, makes approx 10

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

2 medium courgettes

1 tsp sea salt flakes + extra to taste

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped 

1 egg

black pepper

72 g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the ends of the courgettes and grate coarsely. Place in a bowl and mix in 1 tsp salt. Leave for 10 minutes the wring out the courgette either using your hands or a clean tea towel. 

Mix the grated courgette with a bit more salt for seasoning (1/4 tsp is perfect), the chopped chilli, black pepper and egg. Mix flour and baking powder and stir into the courgette batter. 

Heat up a frying pan on medium heat, pour in oil. Drop dollops of the mixture into the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and place on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes until crisp and cooked through.  

Parmesan yoghurt crème

200 ml Greek yoghurt

1/2 lemon, zest only 

2 tbsp grated parmesan

salt, black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste. 

 

 

Recipe: pizza with asparagus and wild garlic pesto

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I actually had the intention to make a sourdough pizza with this topping but didn’t have enough time in the end, so used my tried and tested Italian pizza dough recipe, courtesy of Gennaro Contaldo, Jamie Oliver’s Italian mentor.

I also used my go-to simple tomato sauce that I use for everything and my homemade wild garlic pesto. My best tip is to pick lots of wild garlic leaves when in season and blanch some of it, squeeze out the liquid and freeze in little parcels. Perfect to use for pesto or mayonnaise.

The all you need is a good buffalo mozzarella, some asparagus, parmesan and olive oil.

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I promise it’s like tasting spring. Delicious!

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Italian pizza dough, 2 pizzas

500 g 00-flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried yeast

325 ml lukewarm water

Mix flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the yeast. Add the water bit by bit while stirring with a wooden fork. Knead the dough until elastic. Cut the dough into two and shape to round balls. Put the dough balls back in the mixing bowl, sprinkle with flour and cover. Place somewhere warm and let it rise for 90 minutes.

Shape the dough into round pizzas or use a rolling pin to roll it out thinly. Add the toppings you like and bake in 225C, in a low oven, for 8-10 minutes.

Tomato sauce, for one batch pizza dough

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes

salt and pepper

Fry the garlic in the olive oil in a non-stick saucepan. Add the chopped tomatoes, some water and the tomato paste. Cook for 15 minutes while stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. Season to taste and put aside. 

Wild garlic pesto, approx 250 ml pesto

ca 50-70 g wild garlic (about a bunch as stick as a small banana)

30 g almonds

40 g parmesan

1/2 lemon, juice only 

mild oil, approx 100-150 ml 

salt & pepper

Mix wild garlic, almonds, lemon juice and parmesan with a bit of oil to a paste in a food processor or with a stick blender. Keep adding oil until you have the consistency you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keeps in the fridge for 5-7 days. 

Topping per pizza:

1/2 batch tomato sauce

olive oil

1 buffalo mozzarella

4-5 asparagus, blanched and cut into smaller pieces

3-4 tbsp wild garlic pesto

parmesan

Roll out the dough and drizzle some olive oil on it. Spread out the tomato sauce. Shred the mozzarella into chunks and place on the pizza. Add the asparagus pieces and dollops of wild garlic pesto. Grate over parmesan. Add a little more olive oil and put it in the oven on 225C, middle to low oven for 8-10 minutes.

Recipe: asparagus with chopped egg, browned butter and lemon

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Easter was all about about asparagus (and wild garlic) for me. The first asparagus of the season had arrived in the UK before I left for Sweden so I brought two nice bunches home with me. And then we found some lovely Italian asparagus in the supermarket so obviously had to buy that too!

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The first time we kept it simple and ate them with homemade hollandaise sauce. The second and third lots were served with wild garlic mayonnaise (it’s SO good!) and on Holy Saturday we made this dish with chopped egg, browned butter and lemon.

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Asparagus with chopped egg, browned butter and lemon, serves 4

12 asparagus 

2 almost hard boiled eggs, chopped 

50 g butter

1/2 lemon

2 tbsp chopped chives 

4 radishes, thinly sliced

salt, black pepper

Place the butter in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Let the butter melt but leave it until it’s foamy. Remove from heat when it’s a nice medium brown underneath the foam and it smells nutty (and divine!). 

Cook the asparagus in boiling water until al dente (approx 3 mins). Drain and place the asparagus on a plate. Season. Add the chopped egg and spoon over the browned butter. Add plenty of lemon juice. Season again and top with chopped chives and sliced radishes.