okonomiyaki

St Patrick’s Day Okonomiyaki

okonomiyakiI have no idea what the adjective for Irish-Japanese fusion food is, but we need one. Both Ireland and Japan love a bit of cabbage and seaweed (and whiskey). Their cuisines have more in common than you’d think.

This idea came from Mister North who having seen the design for Recipes from Brixton Village on mentions the recipes he is most excited by as he reads. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake made primarily from cabbage, but the number of spring onions (or more accurately scallions) in it made him think it overlapped with the Northern Irish delicacy of champ.

Since okonomiyaki means ‘as you like it’ I wondered if I could make a champ based version for St Patrick’s Day. I have grown to love okonomiyaki after Motoko Priestman opened Okan in Brixton Village, dishing up a variety of okonomiyaki in the Osaka style. My favourite is the mochi and cheese, but this is a little like choosing your favourite pet or child as they are all fabulous in their own way.

There are few more filling and healthy lunches than an okonomiyaki making it perfect for fortifying one’s self if you’ve had a few swallies the night before. I’ve gone stereotypically Irish here with bacon, cabbage and scallions. Annoyingly I was seaweed-less but some nori or dulse on top would have been perfect. I also varied from the usual topping of mayonnaise to use a creamy buttermilk dressing and omitted the typical okonomiyaki or ‘burnt sauce’ that tastes like ketchup combined with HP sauce.

St Patrick’s Day Okonomiyaki (adapted from Recipes from Brixton Village)

Serves 1

  • 50g pancetta or bacon cubes
  • 150g sweetheart cabbage, shredded finely
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g potato, grated
  • 50g plain flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50-75ml water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk or yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper
  • seaweed flakes to serve

Okonomiyaki usually has toppings like thinly sliced squid, belly pork, prawns or cheese which are cooked as the pancake itself cooks, but because I only had thick cubes of bacon, I’ve cooked them first as they might still have been raw otherwise. Pan fry until crisp round the edges.

Shred the cabbage in very thin slices and then break it up into individual shreds with your hands into a large bowl. Add the cooked bacon and any fat from the pan. Thinly slice the scallions and add in. Beat the egg into it all. Set aside.

Take a skillet or heavy pan and heat on a high heat for about 3-4 minutes while you make the batter. Don’t add the oil at this point.

Prepare your batter by grating the potato in a bowl and adding the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Crack the egg into it and beat it in. Add enough of the water to make the whole thing a soft and pourable batter. Stir quickly but without overmixing. Pour 3/4s of the batter into the cabbage and bacon and mix lightly. Set the rest of the batter aside.

Add the oil in the pan and turn it down to a medium-low heat. Put the cabbage batter into the pan, smoothing it out from a heap to a thick pancake. Don’t push it right down to knock the air out. Cook the okonomiyaki for about 3 minutes.

Pour the remaining batter on top of it all. This would usually help seal the toppings into the okonomiyaki. Carefully flip the okonomiyaki over and cook on the other side for about 2-3 minutes. The base of the okonomiyaki will be quite dark from the hot pan but you want the top a bit paler.

Serve on a plate, paler side up and drizzle with the buttermilk dressing. Sprinkle with the seaweed flakes and a few spare scallion slices if you have them. Eat immediately and experience the perfect cross between a pancake, boxty and a potato farl. You may fancy a wee stout on the side. I had good strong tea instead.

Recipes from Brixton Village - front cover

Recipes from Brixton Village will be published on May 22nd 2014 from independent bookshops and the Kitchen Press website. It can be pre-ordered now for delivery as soon as it’s published.

fried porridge

Fried Porridge

fried porridgeI am probably constructed half and half from oats and potatoes if you consider my Scottish and Irish heritage. Childhood days started with oats in the form of porridge and ended with spuds for dinner very often. Both are still mainstays of my table even now.

Porridge is surprisingly controversial. People have strong feeling about the type of oat used, the ratio of water and milk and whether salt or sweet and they stick to their guns. I make mine with Flahavans oats if I can get them, using half milk and half water and I add a pinch of salt as the oats cook. This makes it all the right smooth consistency for me without being too creamy and the salt makes it taste much more intense. I then tend to eat mine plain or with some fruit on top if I’m feeling virtuous. Occasionally I have a little drizzle of golden syrup, but I have fairly simple tastes with my porridge.

Others however have magical porridge powers involving spurtles and things like steel cut or pinhead oats and take it all very seriously. They also mention something about a porridge drawer which I was reminded of recently when talking to Caitríona at Wholesome Ireland. This would have been a small section in a dresser where the leftover breakfast porridge was poured and allowed to cool and set before being cut into slices. Children ate when they came home from school or men took it as their ‘piece’ for lunch. A forerunner of the flapjack or the cereal bar basically.

Apparently the porridge drawer was common in both Ireland and Scotland, but I’ve never seen one or eaten from one. Curiosity piqued I asked my dad who grew up on the west coast of Scotland and he remembers the sliced ‘purritch’ being fried up in bacon fat or butter and served for dinner. I love the idea of being able to go savoury or sweet here but I’ve tempted go sweet as I had some leftover spiced butter from making hot buttered rum at Christmas. Read more

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Festive Flies’ Graveyards

 

Screenshot 2013-12-27 21.58.46

Being organised enough to make my own Christmas pudding this year is fantastic because it’s given me the opportunity to make these fabulous festive flies’ graveyards (or fruit squares for the more squeamish) with the leftovers.

These buttery pastry squares packed with dried fruit were a must have at every tea time get together when I was a child. Both my granny and my Aunt Kathleen made them beautifully and I felt I had a lot to live up to trying to get mine right, so I’ve kept it simple here for this Observer Food Monthly piece and used my granny’s recipe to be sure.

These are fantastic with some leftover cranberry sauce dolloped in and make a great alternative to mince pies when you are a month into the season. Enjoy with custard or brandy butter for more of a dessert feel. I’m off to whip up another batch for the family now I’m home.

You can find the full recipe here. What other leftovers are you using up this week?

malt pudding

Malt Loaf Steamed Pudding

malt puddingI think regular readers know my feelings on malt. I go doollally for its dark and sticky charms whether it’s moist cakes or anything involving Veda bread. I like my beers black and I can even be swayed by the lighter malty treats like Horlicks. But one thing I’ve found over years of sampling, is that malt tastes even better when you warm it up slightly.

I got hold of some of that dark malt extract you see in health foods shops where it is sold as a virtuous alternative to granulated sugar. It made me wonder if I could take the warmth of toasted Veda or Soreen and basically serve it with custard instead of the usual slathering of salted butter? I thought I’d try and create dark dense malted steamed sponge pudding dotted with plump juicy dried fruit. I figured you couldn’t go wrong with such a combo.

And I was right. You couldn’t. In fact I went so right I created a sponge of such lightness it is even easier to eat than a whole loaf of Soreen to yourself. But I did discover that it is better to make this pudding and allow it to mellow in a tin for up to 5 days and then steam it again for just long enough to warm it through to get it to the right syrupy texture to go with custard. Apologies for making you wait. I promise it is well worth it. Read more

No Fuss Gnocchi

gnocchiI think everyone who has ever met me knows how I feel about potatoes. Pretty much a full food group in my life, I am never without a bag of spuds. My idea of treating myself is to buy a different sort for each recipe and mull over the merits of Anyas, King Edwards, Desirees and Kerr Pinks. I’ve even grown my own and spent hours on the internet trying to find the elusive Yukon Gold. I’m either slightly obessive or painfully stereotypically Irish.

So imagine how pained I was when I went to buy a bag of bog basic white spuds last week and they were a mindbending £2.40 for 2.5 kilos. At the rate I consume potatoes that’s bumped my shopping budget up to a point where there’s just not much wiggle room. I had two options: stop eating potatoes or find a cheaper option.

Obviously I went for the latter and decided to play around with the bag of Sainsbury’s Basics Instant Mashed Potato I bought a while back as a cheaper gluten free alternative to breadcrumbs and batter. 125g of dry mash and 150ml milk and 425ml water makes 695g of mash, meaning one 250g bag costing 49p makes well over a kilo of mash.

Unfortunately I have bad memories of instant mash from school dinners where it came served in uniform scoops with a oddly powdery texture. It needed so much butter that it would be heartstopping in cost and health consequences. So what was I going to do with my mountain of mash now?

Older, wiser and more versed in the potato dishes of the world, that’s an easy one. I’m going to make gnocchi with it. And potato bread. Then I’m going to marvel at how quick both are and how I suddenly feel like one of those home economics teachers from the 70s by telling you this.

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