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Asian-style pork suet dumplings

I got a big pot of kim-chi from the chinese supermarket, so I decided to make some pork dumplings and give them a vaguely asian flavour. This was nice and makes good use of a very small amount of pork. Serves 1 as a main, or 2--4 as accompaniment, takes 25 mins:

  • Small handful pork mince
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 50g suet
  • 1/2 tsp chinese five-spice
  • Cold water
  • Small handful fresh basil leaves
  • A pot of kim chi

In a frying pan, fry the pork mince for 5 mins, breaking it up well into small pieces as you go. Then take it off the heat and let it cool a little bit.

Meanwhile, you can start making the dumplings even while the pork is frying. Mix up the flour, suet and five-spice. Add a splash of cold water (2 tbsp?) and with your fingertips mix and rub the mixture. If it's not wet enough to come together, add a bit more water; if it's too wet to work with, add a touch more flour; etc.

Sprinkle the basil leaves over the mixture, then sprinkle the slightly cooled pork mince over too. Make sure the pork isn't too hot to work with your hands, then mix everything up nicely and form into about 8 round balls.

Place the dumplings in a steamer and steam for 15 minutes.

Serve with plenty of kim chi.

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Dudhi, chicken and basil

I first encountered the vegetable which I call the dudhi many years ago. But now I've moved to a part of London with a large Bangladeshi community it's available everywhere.

It's a big vegetable like a cross between a cucumber and a potato. You can treat it a bit like a tough courgette. Steaming it the other day didn't work out well. But today I tried frying it with chicken, in a mediterranean fashion, and yeah that worked out.

This simple thing is to serve one and takes less than 20 minutes:

  • Half a dudhi (depending on its size...)
  • 1 chicken breast
  • Plain flour
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves (e.g. about a dozen) (not dried basil, it won't work)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Slice the dudhi down the middle and then into slices about 1cm thick. Get some oil nice and hot in a big frying pan and add the dudhi. Fry the dudhi for a total of maybe 15 minutes, but adding more things about half-way through as follows.

While the dudhi is cooking, dice the chicken breast. Add some salt and pepper to a handful of plain flour on a plate, and toss the chicken in the flour, to coat evenly. Add it to the hot pan, making sure the chicken pieces are in the hottest and oiliest bit of the pan so that they're going to fry and cook. Slice the garlic and add that too.

When the food is ready to serve - you need to be confident that the chicken has had time to cook through - turn the heat off, then sprinkle the basil leaves on top of everything. Also sprinkle a small splash of water on top, which will instantly turn to steam and just help the basil along a touch. Stir briefly and serve, with bread or pasta.

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Roast chicken thighs with spring onion salsa and coconut rice

Chicken thighs - this recipe makes them lovely and sticky and with a great accompaniment. It's rare that I cook chicken thighs in a way that I like, so I'm particularly impressed by this one - we liked it a lot. Takes 1 hour, serves 2.

  • 3 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup white wine or pink wine
  • rice
  • 1 lemon
  • 2x2x2cm coconut block (approx)
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Put a tablespoon or two of oil in a roasting tin, and rub the chicken thighs in the oil to get it all over, then leave the chicken thighs skin-up. Put this in the oven. Cook it for 45 minutes, turning the temperature down to 190 after the first 15 minutes and pouring the wine over them. Baste the chicken occasionally with the juices in the pan. After the full 45 minutes just turn the oven off and leave the chicken inside to rest.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Put the rice in a pan which has a tight-fitting lid, add the zest of 1/2 the lemon. Chop the coconut block finely and add it to the pan too. Put the pan on the heat, add just enough boiling water to cover plus a bit more, and put the lid on. Bring it all to the boil, stir, and then turn the heat right down to its lowest setting, to sit gently cooking with the lid on for 30 minutes. You can probably even turn the heat off, in the second half, to prevent burning/sticking.

Once the rice is underway, make the salsa. Rinse the spring onions, tomatoes and chilli. Chop the spring onions and tomatoes into small dice. Remove the seeds from the chilli, and chop the flesh finely. Put all of this into a bowl, and juice the lemon, then add the lemon juice to the bowl and stir all around. Let this sit and soak while the other things cook, so the lemon juice has a chance to soften things.

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Fish and chorizo stew with pasta

Fish and chorizo is a lovely combination and this stew with pasta shells was simple but rich. Serves 2-3, takes about 40 minutes.

  • 320g fish pie mix (mine had haddock, salmon, pollack)
  • 55g chorizo
  • 2 spring onions
  • Lemon zest (about 1/4 of a lemon's worth)
  • Handful parsley
  • Small handful conchiglie (pasta shells)

Chop the spring onions up. Keep the whiter bits separate from the green leafy bits. Also chop the chorizo into little bite-sized pieces.

In a deep pan that has a well-fitting lid, warm up some marge/oil and start the white bits of the spring onion frying gently. Once the chorizo is chopped up add that too.

Once the chorizo and spring onion have softened a bit nicely, add the fish pie mix to the pot and stir it around. Add the green bits from the spring onions, and the lemon zest, then enough boiling water to only just cover. Bring to the boil, put the lid on, turn the heat right down and let it simmer very gently for 25-35 minutes.

Halfway through the stew's bubbling time, get the pasta going. Half-cook it (parboil it) for 5 minutes in boiling water, then drain it and add it into the stew.

Just near the end, wash and chop up the parsley, add it into the pot, and stir everything around. Give it another minute or two for the parsley to get involved, then serve.

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Baked leeks with lardons and feta

A lovely warming autumn dish. You'll need a casserole dish big enough that the leeks (chopped into a couple of pieces each) can all sit flat. Serves two as a main course (or 3--4 as a side).

  • 3 medium leeks
  • 80g lardons (or you can probably use any bacon, preferably thick and cut into cubes with scissors)
  • 1 pt (300ml) milk
  • small amount of feta cheese (60--100g?)
  • 40g plain flour
  • 40g margarine (or butter)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Melt the marge, half each in two separate pans. One of them will be for making the white sauce. Put the lardons into the other one, on a low heat, just so they warm up and fry a tiny bit and flavour the marge.

Wash the leeks and prepare them for your casserole dish. Chop them into two or three pieces, as needed, and tile them into the bottom of the casserole dish so they form a single layer.

In the other pan, on a medium heat, start to make the white sauce. Sprinkle about half of the flour into the pan, and whisk it until smooth. The lardons in the other pan should have had a few minutes to warm up - turn the heat off for them, and pour the juices from the pan into the one where you're making the sauce. The idea is to get some of the bacony flavour into the sauce.

Put the lardons to one side. Put the rest of the flour into the sauce pan, and whisk again until smooth. Now continue to cook this "roux" for a couple of minutes, so the flour is cooked, then gradually add the milk (with whisking) and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.

Now assemble. You've already got the leeks in the bottom of the casserole dish; sprinkle the lardons over them, then gently pour the sauce evenly over. Finally crumble the feta on top. Cook in the preheated oven for about 40--45 minutes, until nicely browned on top. Serve with salad.

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Pork and lentil hotpot with caramelised apple

This is a tasty hotpot with that classic pork-and-apple combo. Philippa forced me to write this recipe down because she liked it so much, which is impressive since she's not into pork!

Serves 4 and takes about 45 minutes, plus some extra time at first (optionalish) to soak the lentils.

  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 300g pork mince
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 2--3 medium potatoes, washed
  • 1 yellow courgette (or a normal one)
  • 1 apple (I used a cooking apple - a normal apple is fine though)
  • Olive oil

Soak the lentils in a bowl of water for about an hour, then drain them.

Start the oven pre-heating to about 180°C.

In a fairly large pan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Peel and dice the onion and the garlic. Add the onion to the pan and start it frying, adding the garlic after a couple of minutes. Stir and fry for a couple of minutes to soften.

Add the pork mince and stir it in, letting it take a bit of colour as it fries. Add the lentils too, and stir them in. Add the red wine, and cook it for a couple of minutes to reduce, then add the mustard powder, and enough hot water to only just cover it all.

Let that simmer a bit while you prepare the potatoes. No need to peel them; slice them very thinly, using the mandolin part of your grater, or just slice them thinly with a knife if you haven't got one. Also, chop the courgette into chunky slices.

Now take a big ceramic pot or similar (about 20cm diameter, for example; no lid needed) and assemble the hotpot. Put half of the pork mixture into the pot, then sprinkle the courgette pieces over, then add the rest of the pork mixture. Layer the potato slices on top to make a covering, then sprinkle a good dose of olive oil over the top.

Put the hotpot in the oven and bake for 30--40 minutes, until the top is getting nicely crispy.

When the hotpot is almost ready, heat up some oil in a frying pan, slice the apple, and fry the slices hot for about five minutes (turning half-way) so that they caramelise. Serve up the hotpot with the fried apple slices on the side.

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A lamb dhansak

Lamb and lentils is a lovely combination, and in Britain at least it's what you normally get in a dhansak curry. This recipe is not an official dhansak, just something I put together. Serves 2, takes 1.5 hours (most of the time you don't have to be there though …

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Tropical scone cake

We're moving house soon, so this is a strange cake made by using up some ingredients that we had loitering around in the cupboard. This turned out as a nice but crumbly scone-like cake - Philippa liked it enough that she asked me to write it down, even though it was …

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Chorizo and sweet potato stew

Lovely one pot dish that puts chorizo and sweet potatoes together like they should be. Don't use thin-sliced chorizo for this, it needs to be in meaty little chunks. Oh and don't add any salt either, the chorizo brings lots of saltiness to the sauce. Serves 2, takes about 40 …

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A nice beef stew with apricot and leek

You can put anything in a stew but here's a combination that turned out nicely. It's cooked slowly (you ignore it for about 2 hours), which means that the starch from the potatoes thickens the broth up nicely, and also that the flavours from the leek/apricot/etc all melt …

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