Wednesday 11 January 2023

Fen-style garlic slow braised aubergines with hand smashed noodles

Inspired by a naughty lunch delivered to my work place from Fen noodles in Old Spitalfield Market, I aspired to recreate their glorious and unctuous garlic aubergine and hand pulled noodles.  One of my vegan pals had really loved it and it was their birthday this week, so I thought I'd have a go at home and bring some in for them.

Serves 4 - 6


3 to 4 medium aubergines (yes, it's a lot - it shrinks down)

1 to 2 TABLESPOONS of finely chopped garlic (yes, it's a lot, it is honestly not overpowering

1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

1 tablespoon lao gan ma crispy chilli oil or chilli bean paste

crushed chillies (optional) 

2-3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, or balsamic vinegar, or rice vinegar with dumpling dipping sauce mixed

2 tablespoons ground nut oil (or more as needed)

some spring onions, finely sliced, divided into white and green parts.

350 - 500g dried lasagne sheets 

Side note about garlic:  I usually buy peeled garlic cloves in bulk from Costco or Booker and then chop half in a food chopper/processor and freeze it and I freeze the unchopped garlic separately also.  If you can be bothered, you can freeze the chopped garlic in ice cube trays initially and then pop them out into bags, but I can't usually be bothered and I don't like the garlic residue on the ice cube trays (yes, I've tried keeping some separate just for this purpose but that really only works if you live alone as no-one in a family or house share listens to these sorts of rules) and I quite like smashing up the frozen lumps of chopped garlic to get however much I need.  It's cathartic.

I start by cubing up the aubergine and heating the oil and frying the aubergine at quite a high heat.  Unless you have a catering size wok, you may need to do this in batches until the cubes are nicely browned on all sides and the skins look browner rather than purple.

Once they all fit in the wok at once, add the garlic, the white part of the spring onion and the salt. and then continue to stir and toss so that the garlic doesn't catch or burn.  Once the garlic is soft, and the aubergine is starting to collapse on itself, add the chilli paste (either lao gan ma or chilli bean paste - I've seen both in supermarkets) and stir well, coating all the cubes with the shiny, red oil with its deliciously savoury chilli or soybean and chilli bits.  You may wish to add some crushed chillies at this point, it rather depends on your tolerance and the fierceness of your chilli paste.

Once it is all nicely mixed, add the soy sauce and vinegar, pouring around the edge and tossing it all well.  

Now, reduce the heat and let the aubergine cook down.

Now for the carb element.  I really liked the hand pulled noodles we had from Fen.  I do not, however, have the time or energy - or even inclination on a weekday - to make hand pulled noodles myself, but I really wanted to get that chewy, irregular pasta/noodle mouthfeel.  Inspiration struck me quite literally when a box of dried lasagne sheets fell out of the larder onto me! I got the kids to break the sheets up into irregular pieces and then I cooked the pieces in plenty of salted water just as I would any other pasta shape.

Once they were done - around 11 mins - I used a slotted scoop and tongs to lift them out of the water and drop them straight into the aubergine (once that was done).  I mixed them all together and scattered the green part of the spring onions on top and served!  If I had needed to, I could have used some of the noodle cooking water to lubricate the dish, but it wasn't needed this time.

Now, it wasn't anywhere near as FIERCELY spicy as the Fen noodles one, but we all loved it, and my pal was over the moon (despite the moderated chilli levels) and said it was an amazing birthday gift!

Monday 11 April 2022

Traybaked chicken with clementines and courgettes

Traybaked chicken with clementines and courgettes

As part of my quest to find interesting and delicious new meals for the family, I stumbled upon an interesting sounding recipe on the M&S app. It, however, featured fennel, of which I am not a huge fan following overloading via Abel and Cole boxes over the years.  I decided to use celery and courgette instead to up the veggie quotient and I'm happy to say it was a great success.  Ok, Papa still pulled a face, but the kids had no such qualms.  

The M&S app recipe was written TERRIBLY and I've made enough tweaks to say that I've made this my own, so here goes:

1 pack of chicken thighs (6 - 8 thighs in the pack)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

4-6 clementines or other small peelie oranges

1 -2 red onions

half a head of celery

2-4 courgettes

4-6 (or more) unpeeled garlic cloves

rosemary or thyme (optional)

a handful or a cupful of frozen peas (optional)

100ml chicken or veg stock (I use the granules in a tub)

Heat the oven to 190 degrees/gas 5

Juice 3 of the clementines and mix with the oil and mustard in a large glass bowl.

Add the chicken thighs and mix well with salt and pepper and leave to marinate for 30 mins if you can spare the time.

While this sits, cut the onions into half moons, and roughly chop the celery and the courgettes. Reserve the celery leaves (also chopped) for a garnish.

Spread on a roasting tray with some rosemary or thyme and the unpeeled garlic cloves.

Add the chicken and marinade on top and then add the stock.

Cook for 45 mins until chicken is fully cooked.

If using the peas, add them to the tray and cook through for another 3 mins.

While the chicken is cooking, slice the remaining clementine(s) and char onto a griddle pan for around a minute until they caramelise.

Use to garnish along with the reserved celery leaves.

Serve with airfried baby potatoes - I like to dress a pack of baby potatoes with salt, pepper, paprika, dried rosemary, olive oil and lime juice and then airfry for 20 mins.

Monday 21 June 2021

Sone's Tandoori lamb chops and Nate's tasty rice


As we enter the barbecue season, some supermarkets put together meat packs which can be great value, and Papa managed to score an amazing value lamb pack which happened to include some beautiful lamb chops.  I decided to use my amazing sister (in-law)'s way of tandoorifying food, and so I marinaded the chops in the early afternoon and then cooked them in just a few minutes on the Ninja Max grill.  They were astounding!  I paired them with some steamed broccoli and some tasty buttery pilau style rice using the secret tip imparted by Big'Un's amazing boyfriend, Nate.

As I'm brown, I often get asked how to tandoori things, and I've never really done much this way, so never been able to suggest much other than "buy some tandoori powder?" so I'm really pleased to be able to share this.  I recall I used to avoid tandoori because of the bad colourings used, but it's now pretty easy to find packets of tandoori powder.

To serve 4-5 people, you will need:

6-8 lamb chops or cutlets

*about 150g plain yoghurt

*3 tbsp tandoori powder

*salt, pepper

*1 tbsp chaat masala

*about half a cup of onion/garlic/ginger paste (I used 2 blocks of (defrosted) frozen ginger garlic paste, and one small bitzed up onion) 

*a drizzle of oil

2 cups rice

1tsp ghee/butter/vegetable oil

3 tsps Kucharek Polish seasoning

a small piece of cinnamon

3 cardomom pods

1 bayleaf


- optional to serve - Costco Jalapeno hummus

To make this:

First, marinate the lamb.  I did this around 4pm and I grilled them at about 6pm.  You can do it for longer or for as little as 30 mins.  Mix all the starred ingredients (these are Sonia's amazing flavour combinations) together and then add the lamb and mix and coat well.  Cover and leave.

When you are 30 mins away from your meal time, heat the ghee (or inferior alternative) in a large saucepan and add the spices (bayleaf, cardamom and cinnamon.) After a few minutes, they will start to release a lovely fragrance.  Now add the rice, and the Polish seasoning, (this is the secret Nate gave me) and stir to coat well.  

A minute later you can add the water, you will need 2 and a half cups of water for this amount (2 cups) of good quality basmati rice. Cover and bring to the boil.  As soon as it boils, turn the flame down as far as possible and let it simmer for 15 minutes.  You know the drill, as soon as the timer goes off, switch off the hob, and then set another timer for 5 minutes and DO NOT TOUCH THE PAN.  When the timer goes off again, then you can lift the lid and gently fluff the rice with a fork.

Back to the lamb.  While the rice is simmering, heat up your grill.  You can use a griddle pan, or a barbecue, or the grill setting of a gas or electric oven, but I used the Ninja Grill Max (which is known as the XL in American and some other countries.)

I heated the grill with the grill plate in to high, and then added the chops well spaced.  I had to cook them in 2 batches , but they didn't take long, so it really wasn't a problem.  I used tongs to lift them out of the marinade and I made sure I didn't drip the marinade all over the  place.  I closed the grill and left it alone for about 4 - 5 minutes to sear and stripe.  Then I turned the chops and closed the lid again.  After another 4-7 minutes depending on thickness of chop and size, they were all charred and striped and really delicious.  

I served the chops with some steamed broccoli, and the rice, and some amazing jalapeno hummus I found in Costco!  If you like some yoghurt and pickles or chutneys could also be nice on the side, or a crisp salad if that's more your thing.  

Tuesday 4 May 2021

Air fryer Buffalo wings, with (mild) blue cheese sauce

During lockdown, I jumped on the airfryer bandwagon, and now I seem to have ended up with a Ninja Foodi and a Ninja Grill Max.  They do honestly make some things so crispy delicious and they are much easier to clean up than pots and pans, and they do cook with a LOT less oil or fat.

One of the things everyone raves about is the old Buffalo wings, so here's my version (with some help from Godpapa) which is in part from this BBC Good Food one, and in part from a lot of reading around various air fryer online communities and working out what we liked best.

Buffalo Wings

1 pack of chicken wings
a few tablespoons of self raising flour, or cornflour with gluten free baking powder added.
2 tablespoons of avocado oil
salt and pepper

50g butter
5 tablespoons hot sauce (I prefer Frank's Buffalo Wings Sauce)
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

1) split wings into drums and flats

2) pat dry

3) lightly oil (avocado oil)

4) toss in seasoned SR flour

5) air fry for 20-35 minutes at 200C, stirring occasionally

6) While the chicken is cooking, melt the butter in a pan, and add the vinegar and hot sauce. Stir to emulsify. When mixed, put in the bottom of a large bowl or serving dish.

7) put hot chicken directly into bowl/dish of sauce, toss gently to coat.

Mild blue cheese sauce

Crumble about an ounce of blue cheese into a small dish.  Add 3 tablespoons of plain set yoghurt, 2 tablespoons of soured cream, 1 teaspoon of celery salt and half a teaspoon of paprika.  Stir well

to mix and blend and evenly spread the cheese through the sauce.  

Serve the chicken with the sauce, some potato wedges and some sticks of celery - and plenty of napkins!

Monday 29 March 2021

Paneer and sweetcorn curry

I haven't made this dish in a while and so I was looking through my blog to refresh my memory as to how I made it, and I was horrified to find I hadn't blogged it ever yet!

As Big'Un is at Uni and sometimes turns to Mama's blog to find the recipes for the dishes she misses, I thought I'd better get it blogged.  Turns out Middl'Un LOVED the dish and talked about needing me to "post it to her" when *she* goes to Uni, so I thought even MORE reason to get it written down! (So that she can cook it so I don't have to explain why I won't be able to post it...)


  • one pack of paneer (around 225-250g)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • one small onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • half a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 250g sweetcorn (I use frozen, but tinned would also be fine)
  • pinch of turmeric if wished 
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste

Cut the paneer block into smallish cubes, about the size of playing dice.  Fry gently in a little vegetable oil or ghee.  Keep turning until they are crispy and brown on all (or most of) the sides.  

Add the cumin seeds and when they start to sizzle, add the onion and garlic and fry gently until soft.  Add the turmeric if using.  Continue to fry until the rawness of the turmeric is gone, and the garlic and onion are very soft and translucent.

Add the tinned tomatoes and a little water.  Cover and cook until the tomatoes are "melted" down.  Stir well and add the sweetcorn. Season with the salt and pepper and cover.  Allow to simmer for 10-15 mins.  Stir well when done and serve with hot buttery chapatti.

Thursday 28 January 2021

Kimchi Fried Rice with fresh pickled veg

My lovely extended family had kept mentioning having cooked kimchi fried rice, and I was intrigued.  Having made a Sunday pot roast chicken, I had deliberately kept some meat back to use during the week.  Some went in sandwiches, as having 4 people at home for lunch every day means we want to have interesting and varied lunches, and some I had earmarked for a chicken fried rice.  

I had found this recipe online with some really lovely fresh crunchy pickled vegetables as a salad to go with the rice, and my lovely nephew sent me the video that he uses for the recipe, and so using what I had I cooked a mashup of the two that suited us perfectly.  However, I didn't want to lose the combined method so what better thing to do than blog it! 

You will need:

2 cups of cooked and cooled rice.

1 cup of kimchi, drained, liquid reserved, chopped

1 - 2 tablespoons of gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

3-4 spring onions, sliced, green and white parts kept separate

leftover cooked chicken

If you want to do the vegetables as well, you will need:

half a bunch of radishes, thinly sliced

150g baby cucumber, thinly sliced

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks

60ml (1/4 cup) cider or red vinegar

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt flakes

First make the pickle by dissolving the sugar and salt in the vinegar and adding all the thinly prepared veg and tossing well.  Leave to absorb the pickling dressing.

Next, heat the oil in a wok and fry the chicken.  After a minute or two, add the garlic and white parts of the spring onions.  

When it is starting to brown at the edges, add the chopped kimchi.  Continue to stir and now add the cooked, cooled rice.  Stir through the gochujang and also the reserved liquid from the kimchi.  Mix very well so all the rice is coated evenly in the sauces.  Once the rice is thoroughly heated through, serve, with the pickled vegetables on the side.  Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds if liked.

Monday 23 November 2020

Meatless Monday Courgette and Haricot pasta

This filling and veg packed pasta dish is really satisfying and moreish.  You don't HAVE to serve it on a Monday, obviously!

Ingredients :

1 medium to large onion
3 large courgettes
1 can of beans (haricot, borlotti, cannelini etc)
400g pasta twists or similar shapes of your prference
salt and pepper to taste.
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp Marigold
red chilli flakes to taste
grated cheese if desired, or Engevita flakes
double cream if you want or have it, or Oatly cream.


Finely slice the onion and fry in a good glug of olive oil, on a medium heat.  

Cut the courgettes lengthwise and slice thinly - I'll admit I used a food processor for this and it was a boon.  Once the onions are soft and starting to mellow, tip in the courgettes and stir well to coat.  Turn the heat up and keep stirring for a few minutes.  

Add the salt and pepper, mixed herbs and chilli flakes and keep stirring and mixing.  Lower the heat very slightly, and allow to soften and cook down.

Boil the water for the pasta, salt the water once it's boiling, and then cook the pasta for 10 minutes.

Once the courgettes are softer, sprinkle in the Marigold powder and add a little of the water from the can of beans.  Mix well.  Drain the rest of the can and add the beans to the courgettes.  Mix thoroughly, lower the heat and cover.

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the courgette mixture.  Stir well to mix, and add the cheese or Engevita flakes.  Finally add the cream if using.