I came back from the Bang Bang Asian supermarket in Colindale two nights ago laden with all sorts of goodies, but I missed the most vital ingredient – noodles. I have this habit of buying bags and bags of them – Udon, Soba, Ramen Lo Mein and they then get stuffed into a cupboard and forgotten about. So this time I held back from buying any – I walked past aisle upon aisle of them, secretly wanting to buy them all but forcing myself not to, given the stash that was awaiting me when I got home. And so when Immie asked for Ramen yesterday, I was ecstatic – the perfect opportunity to use the fancy king oyster mushrooms and chines chives I’d bought just two nights ago while also using up a decent chunk of my noodle cache. Of course when I looked, I had no Ramen, no Soba, no Udon – in fact all I had was a small bag of super fine rice vermicelli – so this recipe is pretty much ramen without the ramen. Actually it’s probably closer to Pho. In reality, it’s neither, but It’s really good and ridiculously simple so I’m going to write it down anyway…
Take a lemongrass stalk, peel off the outer layer and split it down the middle (you’re going to fish this out at the end), then slice a thumb of ginger, a red chilli, four cloves of garlic, the stalks of a handful of coriander leaves, a couple of large king oyster mushrooms (or lots of normal ones, or pretty much any white/pale mushrooms you fancy), julienne a carrot and stick everything in a large saucepan with a couple of litres of stock (chicken preferably), a few splashes of rice vinegar and fish sauce, a little salt and pepper (maybe even Szechuan peppercorns if you like) and bring it all to the boil. In the meantime, in a separate pan stick your preferred noodles in boiling water and heat them for a few minutes (check the pack for how long as they all differ).
When the noodles are ready, portion them into bowls and cover them in your broth along with a good squirt of lime juice and a handful of chopped coriander leaves. Add soy sauce to taste.
It’s hot, sour, savoury and spicy – perfect for a chilly winter’s day…
If you were to scour the recipes on this blog with a keen eye, searching for elements of other people’s work, you may well find the odd dish that has taken inspiration from a particularly good book or TV show (although I will never steal from Rick Stein – there’s something about the way in which he treats people around him that I don’t like). I can say however with great confidence that this one is unique. No one has ever cooked this dish before (please don’t google it, I don’t want my bubble burst). And it could very easily be vegan if you wanted it to be – you just have to leave out the butter, cream and parmesan. Although I didn’t.
Tomato, sweet potato and watercress lasagne
So here goes – start by making your tomato ragu. Fry a finely chopped onion along with 5 cloves of garlic and a small red chilli in a pan and once soft, add 4 finely chopped tomatoes, a load of tomato juice (or tomato puree) and a slug of red wine. Season well and then add the chopped stalks of a large bunch of basil. Once the sauce has reduced and has a rich flavour, take it off the heat and once it has cooled a little, add a handful of small yellow plum tomatoes chopped in half. Set aside.
Now make a bechamel with soy or almond milk (or cow’s milk if you prefer) by melting a huge lump of butter, incorporating plain white flour and adding the milk gradually over the heat constantly stirring until you have a silky smooth sauce. Add a 100ml of double cream, lots of grated nutmeg and season well. Set aside.
Take a large bunch of watercress (as with spinach you’ll need more than you think) and heat in a pan with butter. Once it starts heating through, add a couple of large spoons of cream cheese or ricotta. Set aside.
Now to assemble it all. Take a large oven dish, put half of the tomato ragu into the bottom and top it with a full handful of fresh basil leaves followed by a layer of lasagne sheets. Spread a thin layer of bechamel over the lasagne. Now thinly slice (a mandolin is good here) a raw sweet potato, skin and all, and places the slices over the bechamel. Spread another thin layer of the bechamel over the sweet potatoes and then spoon the watercress mixture over the top. Place another layer of lasagne sheets, followed by the remainder of the tomato ragu and finally the rest of the bechamel. Grate parmesan over the top and you’re done. You can now store the lasagne until you’re ready to eat.
To cook it, place in a preheated over at 180c for 40 mins and then get it out and let it rest for a few minutes before serving with a loaf of your very best sourdough