Wonton Soup

I’m seriously missing being able to travel. With this in mind I decided to recreate one of my favourite dishes. I first ate this in Hong Kong. I first ate this in a hole in the wall cafe. It was a revelation and probably the best thing I ate the whole time was there.

Food in Hong Kong is amazing but this just hit the spot. If chicken soup is the ultimate Jewish comfort food, this is probably Hong Kong’s version.

You can find wonton wrappers in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets, or larger supermarkets. This may seem like a lot of wontons, but I also freeze half so I can pull them out of the freezer without any fuss.

These are also great to make with kids, (a little bit of child labour never does any harm). But I also like to stick the music on and switch off, making these can be quite therapeutic. For the soup I usually use shop bought good quality chicken stock. So if you have some wontons in the freezer and some ready made chicken stock this can be a really quick meal.

Ingredients

For the dumplings

500 Grams Pork Mince

4-5cm Piece of ginger (finely grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

2 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1tsp Cornflour

1tsp Sesame oil

1tsp Soy sauce

1 Red chilli (finely chopped)

1 Pack of wonton wrappers

For the broth

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Litre Chicken stock

1 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar (I didn’t have this and used cider vinegar and it was fine)

2 Scallions/spring onions (ends removed and cut in half)

3-4 cm Piece of ginger (cut into 3-4 pieces)

1 Red chilli (cut on half, and seeds removed)

2 Cloves of garlic (cut in half)

Garnish with finely chopped scallions and coriander

Stock infused with garlic, chilli, ginger and scallions

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients for the filling of the wonton filling in a bowl, and get your hands in and mix well until all ingredients are combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Open your pack of wonton wrappers and like filo pastry, you’ll need to cover it with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out. Keep a small bowl of water beside you, as you’ll need to wet the edges of the wonton so they stick
  3. Take a square and put a small teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Wet the edges of two sides of the wonton and fold over to make a triangle. Make sure to press the edges together well (or else water will get in when you cook them). Dab the two long edges of triangle with water and fold the edge together and press (it should look like a tortellini). Place on a tray and continue doing this until you have either run out of filling or wrappers
  4. Add 7-8 wontons at a time to a pot simmering water, and cook for 5 minutes or until the wontons float to the top. Drain and set aside, I usually freeze half the batch. If you’re going to freeze these, let them cool first and spread them out on a tray lined with cling film that you have rubbed lightly with oil to prevent them sticking. When they are frozen, split into batches and transfer into freezer bags
  5. For the broth, add all the ingredients to a pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ginger, garlic, and scallions from the both and discard
  6. Add the wontons to the broth and sprinkle with finely sliced scallion and coriander

Cheese, Corn and Jalapeno Fritters

I’m not always super organised when it comes to planning meals (how many of us actually are).

There are dishes I love that need mashed potatoes, and I don’t always remember to make some the day before, or don’t want the fuss of making it.

The lovely people at Mash Direct were kind enough to send me some of their products to try. I was reminded that I hadn’t made these little flavour bombs in ages. Having ready made mashed potatoes was really handy.

I served these fritters with a fresh tomato salad and they were delicious. I can also highly recommend them for breakfast along with eggs.

Serves 4

Ingredients

400 Grams Mashed potatoes (I used a pack of Mashed Direct mash, it also works really well with their champ)

150 Grams Sweet Corn (frozen or canned is fine)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Jalapeno pepper (finely chopped, with the seeds removed, if you like these super spicy you can add more)

100 Grams Mature cheddar cheese (grated)

1 Egg

1 Tbsp Plain flour

3 Tbsp Oil

Method

  1. Fry the onion with 1 tablespoon of oil to a frying pan over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes allowing the onion to brown and caramelise, add the jalapeno pepper and cook for 5 mins
  2. Add the potatoes, corn, onion, peppers, egg, flour and cheese into a large bowl and mix well
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on a large frying. Add a tablespoon of the fritter mix to the pan at a time, and press flat with a spatula. Don’t try to cook more than 2 or 3 at a time
  4. Cook for 5 minutes or until brown before turning (you need to let a brown crust form first or else they’ll be difficult to turn). Drain on kitchen towels before serving

Michael’s Easy Cannelini Bean Soup

My brother made this soup for me and I loved it.  He only gave me the recipe on condition of a name check, so thanks Michael.

This is proper comfort food, and while the recipe is Vegan friendly it’s a really hearty stick to your ribs meal in a bowl.

I’m not vegetarian, so I topped the soup with some bacon I had left.  But in fairness it’s equally delicious with out it.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

400 Gram Tin of cannelini beans

2 Stalks of celery (fine chopped)

2 Carrots (grated)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Vegetable stock cube (or tablespoon of buillion powder)

2 Cloves of garlic (crushed or very finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Boiling water

Method

  1. Add the oil to a deep sauce pan and heat over a medium heat
  2. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion softens but doesn’t colour
  3. Then add the carrot and celery and cook gently for an other 10 minutes
  4. Stir in the garlic and beans (including half the water they came in), crumble in the stock cube, add the boiling water and stir well.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the the vegetables are soft and then serve with crusty bread

Miso Sesame Chicken

The cracking recipe comes from the national treasure that is Nigella Lawson.

I have tweaked it a little, leaving out the fish sauce (only because I didn’t have any). I’ve used chicken thighs, she used a spatchcocked chicken (whole chicken with the backbone removed and pressed flat), but again this was because this what I had.

The chicken is best if you can let it marinade overnight. So if you can be organised, you’ll have an amazingly tasty weeknight dinner. This is also delicious enough to impress friends if you’re cooking for them. If you’re feeding vegetarians/vegans this marinade is also fantastic spread on slices of aubergine before roasting them.

Serves 4

4 Large chicken thighs or 8 small ones

1 Tbsp Vegetable oil

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

2 Tsp Sesame oil (use one day in the marinade and reserve one for later)

4 Tsp White Miso paste

1 Tbsp Grated ginger

1 Clove of minced garlic

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (reserve for during roasting)

  1. Add the marinade ingredients to a bowl and stir until well combined
  2. Put the chicken thighs in a large freezer bag, pour in the marinade and seal the bag. Rub the marinade onto the chicken to make sure it’s well coated and then refrigerate over night
  3. The next day if you have time, take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you intend to cook it and allow the meat to come to room temperature
  4. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, empty the chicken thighs into an oven proof dish (skin side up) and empty any remaining marinade from the freezer bag over the chicken
  5. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken thighs)
  6. Remove the tin foil and baste the chicken with any juices in the dish, drizzle over a teaspoon of sesame oil (a little goes a long way), and then sprinkle with sesame seeds before returning to the oven for another 10 minutes (check they are cooked by sticking in a fork and making sure the juices run clear)
  7. Remove and serve with your favourite side Asian slaw or spicy cucumber salad or just plain potato salad goes brilliantly with this

Herb Crusted Hake

Fish is something most of us don’t eat enough of, mainly because we think it’s complicated.

I was lucky enough to attend a fish masterclass at Belfast Cookery School a couple of years ago (I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is a little intimidated by fish) and this is one of my favourite dishes I learned how to make and I love it.

This is super easy and quick enough for a mid week family dinner, but is tasty enough to impress guests if you’re cooking for friends.

I used hake, but any firm white fish will do. One of my kitchen hacks I bore people with is to make and keep a big bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer, as breadcrumbs can be used in so many dishes.

If you want to switch up the flavours you can try different herbs, or try adding a little lemon zest or finely chopped chillies if you enjoy a little bit of heat. This is also a great dish to get kids cooking.

Serves 2

Ingredients

250 Grams Hake (I used steaks, but fillets work too)

50 Grams Breadcrumbs (thaw them first if you are using frozen ones)

25 Grams Parmesan cheese (finely grated)

2 Tbsp Herbs (I used parsley and coriander, but use the herbs you like)

2-3 Tbsp Oil (a neutral oil like rapeseed is good)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), take your fish out of the fridge (like meat, fish is best when it is not introduced to heat while its still “fridge cold”), try to let it come up to room temperature. Run your finger along the fish and remove any bones you find (if you’re using a fish monger, you can ask them to do this)
  2. In a bowl, add your breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan, gradually add the oil and combine until the breadcrumbs are lightly coated but not greasy (different types of bread will absorb different amounts of oil). Taste a small amount and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it.
  3. Place your fish on baking parchment in a baking try and pat the breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are brown and toasted. If you’re cooking a particularly thick piece of fish you make need to give it a little longer but be careful not to over cook

Herby Potato Salad

Potato salad is lovely summer dish, but not everyone is a fan of mayonnaise.

This version is a little bit lighter and can be enjoyed by vegans too.

Waxy potatoes are probably best, but either is fine. This is such a great side dish, it goes with virtually everything.

Ingredients

750 Grams Potatoes (cut into 4-5cm chunks, I like to leave the skins on but peel them if you prefer)

1 Tsp Salt

1/4 Red onion (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine/cider vinegar

1 Tsp Mustard (I like to use grain mustard but Dijon mustard is fine too)

4 Tbsp Chopped herbs (I used coriander and parsley because it was what I had, but dill or mint or a mixture will also work)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the potatoes and salt to a pot and add enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, and drain the cooking water (Hold back 2 Tbsp of the cooking water)
  2. In a large bowl add the onion and sprinkle with the vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes (this will help stop that harsh raw onion flavour). Add the oil, mustard, herbs, and cooking water you held back from the potatoes and stir
  3. Add the potatoes while they are still slightly warm to the bowl and mix well to ensure they are coated with the dressing, this will allow them to help soak up the flavour

Chicken with Lemon and Orzo (pasta)

Do you hate washing dishes? me too.  What I do love are simple one pot recipes that you can throw in the oven and forget about.

Orzo before it’s cooked

If you haven’t come across orzo before, its a type of pasta that looks like big fat grain of rice.  I discovered it by accident ages ago when I wasn’t concentrating in the supermarket and thought it was rice.  It’s fantastic in soups and stews because it’s smaller than other pastas, but you can treat it like normal pasta.

Topped with lemon slices and herbs before going in the oven.

You can tweak this dish to suit what you have in the fridge.  I used thyme and dill because I had some in my window box, but use what herbs you like.  The thyme, dill and lemon gives it a really nice flavour that reminds me of Greek dishes.

Ingredients

1 large, or 2 small chicken thighs per person (I use ones with skins on and on the bone but boneless ones are fine too)

2 Carrots

1 Leek

2 Stalks of celery

350 Grams Orzo (dry weight)

800 ml Chicken or vegetable stock

2 Lemons (juice of one lemon, and the other sliced)

2 Tbsp Herbs (I used dill and thyme)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, and heat an oven proof dish on your stove top before adding the chicken thighs
  2. Seal the chicken on each side, and then remove the thighs and set to one side.
  3. Add the vegetables (chopped into 2cm chunks) to the pan (if using skinless thighs, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan) and fry gently for 5 minutes.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed
  4. Add the orzo, lemon juice and stock to the pan and stir well to make sure any delicious chicken brown bits from the bottom of the pan are stirred into the stock
  5. Place the chicken back into the dish and top with the slices of lemon and herbs.
  6. Cover the dish and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes

Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Everyone loves Mexican food, and while I make no claims that someone from Mexico would say this is just like their Mum would make, I think it tastes amazing. If you like pulled pork but never thought of trying it at home, you should give this a go. It really is simplicity itself, all you need is time, so perfect for the weekend when you kick back or get on with other things while the oven does all the work for you.

I love this in tacos but you can add it to burritos or sandwiches. While this does take some time, it’s a simple recipe and is ideal to feed a group of people cheaply. I used pork shoulder which is inexpensive and really benefits from being marinated and cooked long and slow.

Delicious in wraps too.

Ingredients

1 Kg Pork shoulder

100 ml Orange juice (I used the juice of 2 oranges)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

1 Tsp Oregano

1 Tsp Chilli powder

2 Tsp Smoked paprika

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Minced Garlic

Method

  1. Cut your pork into 4 chunks
  2. In a sealable freezer bag add all the other ingredients and squish together to make sure they are well mixed
  3. Add the pork to the bag and seal, rub the bag to make sure the marinade covers the pork and then put in the fridge. If you can marinade this for 24 hours this is ideal. If you don’t have that sort of time try to marinade for least an hour
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees (Celsius). Put your pork and the marinade in an oven proof dish with a lid and place in the oven for 3.5 hours.
  5. Remove from the oven and shred the meat with two forks and mix in with the cooking juices for super tasty pulled pork

Slow Roast Cherry Tomatoes

Do you ever get a bit over zealous when shopping and have stuff hanging about the fridge that you forget about. I do this more often than I should. I recently found a tub of cherry tomatoes that I had forgotten about and were starting to go a bit soft. I decided to cook these long and slow and they tasted fantastic.

I used these as a side dish, but they would be fantastic stirred into some freshly cooked pasta, or served cold in salads or on some crusty bread with some soft cheese. These are every bit as tasty as sun-dried tomatoes. I made quite a small batch of these (because it was a small tub of tomatoes), but I’m definitely going to make bigger batches next time. These can live in your fridge for 3- 4 days in an air tight jar.

Ingredients

250 Grams Cherry tomatoes (halved)

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1/2 Tsp salt

2 Cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

3-4 Sprigs of thyme or 1/2 Tsp dried thyme

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  2. Place all the ingredients on a baking sheet and mix well to ensure the tomatoes are coated in the oil. Bake for 20 minutes
  3. Reduce the heat to 140 degrees and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes start to look wizened up and starting to char

Baked Feta with a Hazelnut Crust

I love super simple recipes, that don’t require dozens of ingredients or loads of time.

This is really simple and delicious and is perfect as a lunch to share or as a sharing starter. You can cut the feta into smaller pieces if you prefer to make these single serving.

The hazelnuts should be kept fairly chunky (I crushed these in a mug with the base of a rolling pin to stop them rolling all over a cutting board). I also like a light drizzle of honey at the end, as I think its a nice contrast against the saltiness of the feta, serve it with salad and some crusty bread.

Ingredients

200 Gram Feta/Greek salad cheese

40 Grams Hazlenuts

4-5 Sprigs Thyme/1/2 Tsp Dried thyme

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Honey (Optional)

Method

  1. Take the cheese out of the fridge about 30 minutes before your plan to bake it (if you forget to do this its no biggy), pat dry with kitchen paper and rub with the oil. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Coat both sides of the cheese with the crushed hazelnuts and thyme, move to an oven proof dish and bake for 20 minutes or until the hazelnuts and toasted and brown
  3. Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey (if honey isn’t your thing don’t worry it will still be delicious)