Thursday, 25 April 2013

Japanese Coleslaw

I adore Japanese food. It's light and flavourful and mostly colourful and beautiful too.

If I'm out in town and I want to eat healthily, I always try to eat sushi or some kind of Far Eastern broth. If I fancy a bit of both, then a bento box from a Japanese cafe would be perfect. In reality, it looks like a TV dinner with compartments in an oblong box for different bites. There's always some rice, topped with a protein of some kind. Maybe a salad, maybe soup, maybe some pickles, and maybe something sweet. I adore the variety.

When I'm home, I sometimes try to re-create the bento by serving some Miso Soup along with a main course and a side dish. Today's coleslaw accompanies some Teryaki Haddock (recipe to follow soon) I made with brown rice. The coleslaw is so easy to make and uses very similar ingredients to the western-style one, but with a sweet and sour dressing instead of the usual heavy mayonnaise. I think it may be time to ditch the mayo out of my life. The regular stuff is too fattening (it's basically a pure oil/egg emulsion - why do it to yourself?) and the light stuff is not mayo - it's house paint.

The dressing ingredients were all bought from my local Asian grocery, but you can easily find the same stuff in you regular supermarket.  Cost-wise, the dressing ingredients set you back a bit when you buy them, but they last forever. Cabbage and carrot are cheap as anything. All-in, this lovely side dish comes in at 50p per serving.

Ideally, I would buy some bento boxes with compartments to use at home. But I think that it may be taking my Japanese obsession a bit too far. What would be next? A kimono and a ceremonial sword?

Serves 2


Quarter of a white or green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, grated
1 teaspoon of black onion (nigella) seeds
2 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, grated
Half a clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon each of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and brown sugar
Salt and black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for an hour or two to let the flavours develop. Serve as part of a bento box-style meal

Monday, 22 April 2013

My Sister's Baby Tomato, Chilli and Black Olive Salad

My sister Roxanne never cooked much until she had kids, and now she's forever placing fish 'en papillotte', or gratinating various vegetables, or layering things. Nothing tastes as good as when it's layered. Apparently.

Today's simple recipe was an accompaniment to a main course (err, fish en papillotte, of course) for a dinner party she had on the weekend. I don't normally rip my family's recipes off - unless the food is sensational despite the shoddy photograph (my mum's baked cheesecake recipe springs to mind) - or the food is good but the photo is knockout.

Hence today's inclusion. Have you ever seen tomatoes look quite so delectable? Olives have never looked blacker or shinier. My sister can not only cook, she is also a great photographer. Maybe one day she'll think of doing one of these things as a job. But I doubt it.

Anyway, this simple summer salad goes well with fish or perhaps as an accompaniment to a ploughman's lunch. Either way, I would be delighted to have something so colourful put in front of me at any mealtime.

The only thing is, Roxanne tells me that the dressing is olive oil, with no acidic counterbalance.  Maybe the tomatoes will add an astringent note, but I would add a teaspoon of lemon juice or red wine vinegar to the mix just to enhance the sharpness of the dish.

My sister is as thrifty as I am. I would guess that she paid no more than £1 per serving for this salad. A bargain I reckon.

Serves 4


300g mixed baby tomatoes (I prefer cherry plum tomatoes myself)
2 large red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
100g pitted black olives, halved
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (make sure you remove the bitter centre stem)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice or red wine vinegar (optional, see note above)
Salt and black pepper
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

On a large serving platter, arrange the tomatoes and chillies, with the olives arranged in neat rows on top. Scatter the salad with the garlic and then dress with the olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar, if using. Season the salad and garnish with the parsley immediately before serving, and not before.

Miso Soup


I love eating at sushi restaurants but I'm getting sick and tired of the big con. Years ago sushi in the UK would be expensive because non-one really ate it; therefore only a few restaurants did it, and because they couldn't guarantee selling everything they bought they would factor in a huge wastage amount into the dish prices.

These days, however, sushi is pretty much a British signature cuisine. There's a sushi place every 50 yards in London and every 100 yards everywhere else. I'm not counting supermarket sushi or Pret a Manger ('no raw fish!' they proclaim, proudly for some reason), but I am including Yo Sushi, Wasabi and You&Me. The thing they all have in common is that the salmon and tuna is pretty much as exotic as it gets in these High Street places. And THAT is the big con. Order in any normal restaurant a tuna nicoise salad or a salmon fishcake and it'll cost you £8 maximum. Go to a sushi restaurant, however, and half that sized portion of fish is £20. AND THEY DON'T EVEN COOK IT!

Me, on the other hand, a veteran of a few Far Eastern trips, prefer eating the more obscure gungy stuff. I love sea urchin, any number of fish roes, raw molluscs and raw octopus. The weirder and more repugnant, the better (I'm not truly happy until I shudder at the very thought of putting the food in my mouth). But whatever I eat and wherever I eat it, I always need a miso soup to accompany it. It's very comforting.

For years, I was afraid of miso. When stirred in a soup, it clouds up. After settling for a minute, it looks like a living breathing amoebic organism. It is, regardless of its questionable looks, delicious and packed full of that mythical sixth taste, umami.

What I didn't know, was that it doesn't need cooking. You just stir and dissolve some of the fermented soya paste into some boiling water and add some cheap garnishes. In a way, a miso soup is closer to a Nescafe beverage than real food. It lasts forever (it's already fermented, FFS) and so there is no wastage. So why the f**k are the restaurants charging more than a pound a bowl? Some of the more 'upmarket' places charge a fiver! Since I discovered the secret, I refuse to eat it anywhere that charges more than a pound. Lie: I mean 75p.

One other thing to add, is that miso paste is not only completely delicious, but probably quite versatile too. It's hard to keep my fingers out of the jar. Over the course of the next few days, I'm going to experiment with it and see whether I can make some soup dumplings with it, maybe a salad dressing, maybe a dip. Whatever it is, will taste bloody brilliant.

At £4 for a big jar, a single serving comes in at 40 pence, including the garnishes.

It may be cheap, and not much of a recipe, but this soup is absolutely delightful. Buy some white miso paste flavoured with dashi (a type of dried fish flake, called bonito) and you won't look back.

Serves 1


1 tablespoon of white miso paste, flavoured with dashi (or without dashi, if you're a veggie)
400ml boiling water
50g block tofu, diced
1 spring (salad) onion, chopped
1 small piece wakame (seaweed), optional

Dissolve the miso in the boiling water and add the garnishes. Not very difficult, eh?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Spaghetti Mr Ribeye

I was so jealous that my wife has her own favourite dish named after her ('Linguine Mrs Ribeye', no less), that I made up a dish and named it after myself.


If I'm honest, I'm slightly perturbed that my wife didn't make the dish for me and name it in my honour, but, well... she can't cook. At all. So I'll take one on the chin - and my tastebuds will thank me later.

Today's dish involves feta cheese and chillies - one of my favourite cheeses and my all-time favourite vegetable (or 'fruit' if you're pedantic). Actually, chillies may just be my favourite food of all time. I sometimes eat them whole on their own for an after-work snack with a glass of wine, cut-up raw on houmous, salads and burgers, or pickled on almost every other dish. But put chillies with feta cheese, and you have an atomic-super-duper-frenzy of a taste explosion. I'm getting a bit warm just thinking about it...

Smooth rich young cheese with fiery chilli. Mmm. Actually hold on... What if I were to roast some of the chillies to bring out their sweetness, and then have some raw ones on top to freshen the dish up? What an idea!

Regular Potless readers will notice that I have married together feta with roasted chillies in a dish before - in my Feta and Roasted Jalapeno Burger - but these days I am more of a veggie pasta than a burger guy (actually that's a lie; if I wasn't such a 'potential fatso', I would eat a burger a day).

And so it was born. The best pasta dish this side of Napoli, and the hottest dish this side of the sun. In a word...

'Fantabuloustasticerrificilliantissimo'. As they definitely say in Italy. Well, most days probably.

As ever, with my careful eye on the purse strings, this dish comes in at a very reasonable £2 per serving. Another reason why this is probably my signature recipe.

Serves 2


3 whole large red chillies
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 x 400g tin of whole Italian tomatoes in their own juice
1 teaspoon of dried oregano, plus extra for dusting
Pinches of salt and pepper
Cooked spaghetti (250g uncooked weight), to serve
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2 red chillies, sliced, to garnish

To a blisteringly hot pan, add the chillies and oil and fry until the skins are slightly charred and roasted, then set aside until needed. To the oily pan, add the garlic and gently fry until it has the merest tinge of golden colour. Add the tomatoes, oregano, seasoning and about a quarter of the tomato tin filled up with water, and cook rapidly until the sauce is thick and unctuous (20 minutes approx). Add the spaghetti to the sauce (not the other way around) and mix to coat thoroughly. Top with the feta cheese, then the roasted and then the raw chillies. Lightly dust the dish with the extra oregano. Serve immediately.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Razor Clam Spaghetti Vongole

Every now and again I pop up to Church Street market and see what's new in. The market is a bit crappy and very functional - no Portobello Road antiques or Marylebone farmers market Jerusalem artichokes here; because this market is for local people, buying day-to-day food at knock-down prices. There is, of course, the odd exotic bargain to be purchased, which is the sort of exception which makes the rule.

At one of the three fish stalls dotted down the street (it's the one outside the manky pub where my dad bought me my first beer - I was about twelve. How times have changed - now, twelve year olds take drugs, probably) the fishmonger normally selling 'four bream or sea bass for a tenner', happened to have some fresh razor clams in at £8 per kilo.

I've never cooked razor clams before, but how hard can it be? Just steam them like other clams and eat them, right?

Well, you could. But then you would be eating a ton of black gunk that sits in their guts, and your dinner would be ruined. Therefore a little dissection is going to be needed between par-cooking them, and gently re-heating them in the sauce. That being said, the meats are sweet, tender and delicious, and the shells make a fantastic garnish talking point. As you can see from the photo, I re-assembled the cleaned cooked clams back into their shells 'for their close-up, daahling...'

Oh, one thing, you may get a bit attached to their antics, which may make them hard to kill without feeling a bit guilty and sad. I bought the razors, put them in a big pot of fresh water to purge them, and then watched as their little noses poked out of their shells to check out their new environment. Inquisitively, I picked up a clam, and it spat a stream of water six feet across my kitchen! Brilliant!

Oh well, can't be a wuss about these things. As much as I quite liked having some molluscan pets for an hour or two, their necessary despatch ended up with me and Mrs Ribeye enjoying one of my best ever home-cooked seafood dishes. And so easy to prepare too, with very few ingredients to make an authentic Italian vongole.

As far as vongole is concerned, the dish should be 'blanco', not thickly red from tomatoes (the way they always seem to serve it in 'Italian-style restaurants' Or tins.) No, the dish should be light and fresh, with a hint of spice from a fresh chilli, fragrant from a light white wine, and carpeted in fresh parsley.

Cost wise, razor clams are about half the price in Church Street than anywhere else in London, I reckon. For two people, 750g is adequate - about 4-5 clams each. The dish may look fantastic and taste luxurious, but at £3 per serving, it's another Potless miracle.

Serves 2


750g razor clams, in their shells
75ml olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fat red chilli, finely chopped
125ml dry white wine
300g cooked spaghetti
Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

Wash the clams in plenty of cold water and leave to stand for an hour or two, then drain. In the meantime, in a hot pan, fry the garlic and chilli in the olive oil until soft. Add the wine to the pan and bring to the boil, and then  add the drained clams and cover the pan. Cook the clams for 4 minutes until they open, then remove from the pan. Leave the pan on the heat, to reduce the cooking liquor by a third, while you remove the intestinal sac and black gunk from the clams with a sharp knife. Chop the clam meats into bite-sized pieces and add them to the clam liquor with the cooked spaghetti. Toss everything together and transfer to serving plates. Carpet with the parsley and  serve immediately (you can place some of the meats into a couple of reserved shells, for aesthetic effect, as pictured).

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Gratin

Jerusalem artichokes are good for your heart, Jerusalem artichokes make you fart, the more you fart the more you eat, the more you sit on the toilet seat.

The Jerusalem artichoke truly is the most intriguing of vegetables. The looks of a ginger root, the density of a potato, the flavour of an artichoke, the flatulence-giving properties of the baked bean. Oh, and they are utterly delicious too.

Five minutes walk from our flat is Marylebone farmers market, held every Sunday in the car park behind Waitrose. There are not that many stalls, but the ones that it does have stock a fabulous array of organic muddy veg, free-range meat, artisan treats and potted herbs. Everything is pretty expensive, but then it should be.

Take the bread for instance. We bought a spelt bread for £3.20 from a stoned-looking lady standing at one of the two bakery stalls in the market. On our way home, we popped into Waitrose for some cream to make today's gratin recipe, and I happened upon their range of breads, which included an insipid looking spelt loaf half the size and half the price of the one I bought. While I accept that three-and-a-bit-quid is a lot for a loaf of bread from the farmers market, I can say without reservation that, after scoffing the whole thing in a day, it was easily the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. Ever. I'm sure that the £1.79 one from Waitrose was nowhere near as good - it certainly didn't look it.

Not everything was dear though. A kilo of Jerusalem artichokes from a ruddy-faced farmer came in at a very reasonable £1.50. Having never cooked them before, I was a little unsure of how to treat them. But recognising their starchy attributes and interesting skins, I realised that a creamy cheesy gratin would probably be OK (but then, what wouldn't be delicious baked in cheese and cream?).

I wasn't wrong. The dish was incredible. Smooth, silky artichokes perfectly complemented by the rich, creamy sauce. The onions and garlic add a perfect savoury note against the sweet 'chokes (which I suspect may be a bit sickly without them).

Cost-wise, the whole dish came in at a bargain £1.25 per serving. Mrs Ribeye and I ate it as a lunch dish main course, but it would be equally good as a side dish with dinner.

Just a quick word to the wise: Don't eat this dish on a first date, or in a closed environment. Trust me.

Serves 2


750g Jerusalem artichokes, skins on and scrubbed
1 large onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
300ml single cream
100g parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and black pepper

Cook the artichokes in vigorously boiling water until slightly tender (20-30 mins approx). In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200c. In an ovenproof skillet or pan, fry the onion in the olive oil and then add the garlic, and cook until soft. Slice the artichokes into 1cm thick rounds and distribute in the pan in an even layer. Pour over the cream and top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 20-30 mins, until the cream has reduced and the cheese is golden. Serve immediately and open a window.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Roasted Asian-Spiced Mackerel with Egg Fried Rice

Having just come back from spending Easter weekend with Mrs Ribeye in Weymouth in Dorset, I noticed just how in love with mackerel the locals are. Every fish and chip shop and cafe in the area screams about their mackerel baps (as invented by Tim Maddams on the TV programme 'Hugh's Fish Fight'), or their mackerel curry, or their mackerel lettuce and tomato sandwich, or their Big Mac (er, actually that last one may be a burger).

Anyway, I, along with Tim and his former mentor Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, firmly believe that the mackerel is the under-ratedest fish in the sea. It's sustainable (whatever that means), its flesh is salty and sweet, it's easy to fillet (just hold it cut side down after gutting it and press it flat, then simply pull out the spine), it's full of omega-3 oily goodness for the ticker, and because it is no namby-pamby breed, its characterful rich fillets can take really strong flavours without being overpowered.

Oh, and at around a fiver a kilo, it's dirt cheap (mm, maybe that's the reason I like it so much).

Anyway, whatever the reason, today's dish really is such a winner for a mid-week dinner or a weekend lunch. I love Asian-ing up a bit of fish. All you need is a bit of ginger, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce, and all of a sudden you're a chef. The secret is, that the whole dish takes five minutes to prepare and fifteen minutes to cook.

As you can see from the picture, my egg fried rice is quite a dark oak colour. This is due to some very thick sticky soy sauce I accidentally bought from my local Asian grocery. Until I poured it over my rice, I had no idea that it would be quite so creosote-ish. But as sometimes the best accidents make the most innovative dishes, I couldn't be happier. The black glue ended up being a fantastic glossy coat to my rice grains and lent my dish quite an exotic earthy tint. It tasted great too.

A whole good-sized mackerel at my local Waitrose (not exactly a budget supermarket, so you might be able to buy cheaper elsewhere) is about £1.50, which means that this dish comes in at a very sustainable (yes Hugh, you're not the only one to over-use the word you know) £2.25 per serving.

Serves 2


2 whole mackerel, filleted, but left whole (see note above)
Half a thumb of ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
Black pepper

For the Egg Fried Rice:

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
Half a thumb of ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 beaten eggs
200g cooked basmati or short grain rice
75g frozen peas
2 tablespoons of sticky dark soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 230c. Slash the skin of the fish three times along each fillet and rub in some ginger and garlic into the slits. Place onto a non-stick baking sheet and pour over the sesame oil and soy sauce. Place the fish on the top shelf of the oven and cook for fifteen minutes (I don't bother turning it over), until the top skin becomes crispy and the slits open up. While the fish is cooking, fry the onion in a wok with the sunflower oil and then add the ginger and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the beaten egg and scramble lightly. Add the cooked rice and the peas and carefully turn through the onion and egg mixture without breaking up the rice grains. Finally, add the soy sauce and carefully coat the rice. Plate the dish by serving a fish over a mound of the fried rice, then spoon any remaining baking tray juices over the fish. Serve immediately.