Kimchi: Korean pickles in two days

After our Burma trip, when asked about our next destination in Asia, South Korea definitely makes it in my top three. One of the main reasons are the stomach-gurgling visions it evokes in my head: steaming pots of jjigae, dripping bulgogi and mountains of fiery red kimchi. Until we get there to check if this hallucinating vision coincides with reality, I'll keep on making my "traditional" kimchi in the warmth of a Belgian kitchen.

The first batch I made was after a recipe of David Lebovitz and the rest were purely exploratory. I discovered replacing half of the fish sauce with soy sauce brings a pleasant depth of flavour. Chunks of other vegetables make for more interesting textures and colors. The future surely holds other exciting discoveries - David's new recipe with rice vinegar might become a new favorite.

1 medium chinese cabbage
80g coarse salt
1 whole head of garlic, minced

2 tbsp minced ginger
1 bunch green onions, cut in 5cm pieces
1 small pear, grated or 1 tsp honey
1/2 cup chili powder, preferably Korean
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
Optional: a grated carrot, a small daikon (japanese radish), a few julienned pak choi leaves

1. Wash the chinese cabbage and cut in half lenghtwise. Remove the tough base and cut crosswise in bite sized pieces (about 5cm long).

2. Fill a big bowl with 4 liters of water and disolve the salt in it. Add the cabbage and place a heavy plate or lid on top to make sure all the pieces are submerged.

3. Leave to stand for 2 hours then rinse well to wash off the salt.

4. Combine the garlic, ginger, chili powder with the fish & soy sauce to obtain a thick sauce. Stir in the green onions, grated pear/honey and the other vegetables, if using.

5. Using your hands (yes, it's messy) mix the cabbage with the sauce, until it's nicely covered and you've got tiny bits of garlic and chili under your nails. Please refrain from sticking your fingers in your eyes for a good few hours.

6. You'll need a clean 800ml jar to finish: force the cabbage down the jar so there aren't any spaces left on the sides. Cover with a clean cloth and set aside at room temperature for 1-2 days.

7. When you see small fermentation bubbles forming, the kimchi is ready! No bubbles? Leave it for one more day.

8. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Kimchi should be kept in the fridge and it will only become better as time goes. Two weeks after creation is supposed to be the best time to enjoy it, but tastes differ so it's really up to you.

And when, if ever, your kimchi grows very old and stinky, it will be just perfect for kimchi soup.
This recipe makes a jarful of pure goodness.


What I've been cooking: Carrot muffins

You couldn't possibly make enough of these - take my advice and double the recipe. You'll have a bunch of grateful friends, if the muffins ever make it outside the house...


Ditch the traditional carrotcake for these jazzy muffins

Recipe for the muffins & the soft cream icing on bbcgoodfood.com. I followed the suggestion of the other readers and added to the mixture the juice of one orange too. Now I'll be on my way to the kitchen to try another batch with poppy seeds!
This recipe makes 12 bits of pure goodness.


Citrus marinated salmon

I'm a big fan of creamy, fatty, raw salmon flesh. When we go for sushi, it feels like Christmas in my heart. So when I first learned about marinating fresh salmon and thus extending its very limited life span, I couldn't wait to try it out. The original recipe only used salt, but I find the addition of spices a happy development.

Citrus marinated salmon
1 sushi-quality salmon filet
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
zest from 1 lemon & 1 lime & 1 orange

freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme 
6 hours 

1. Make sure your salmon has been frozen. You could catch (it's very raaaare!) a nasty tapeworm and then you'll ruin everybody's appetite for raw fish. Frost kills the parasite and its eggs so you should be safe.

2. Pat dry the filet. Grab a recipient that matches the size of the fish.

3. Mix the salt, zest, pepper & the thyme leaves.

4. Pour 1/3 of the salt mixture in the dish. Place the salmon on top and cover it with the rest. Press so the salts sticks on the sides as well.

5. Place the recipient in the refrigerator and wait for 6 long, excruciating hours.

6. Brush the salt off the salmon and discard. Wash the filet in running cold water for 1-2 minutes.

7. Enjoy with sushi rice, in a salad or on a lavish cana

Sometimes my excitement about this is so monumental, my brain comes to a halt. Then I forget to wash the salmon in time and it becomes overly salty. No amount of washing afterwards will fix this - don't make the same mistake!

You should be able to keep the leftovers for a few days but don't overdo it.
This recipe makes a quantity of pure goodness.


Lemongrass panna cotta & spicy orange caramel

Yes, yes, I know, it's been a very long time. But good things come to those who wait or, better, to those who know how to make them themselves. So here's the way to make an absolutely superb dessert with no effort whatsoever.

Lemongrass panna cotta for 8

200ml double cream
200ml coconut milk
200ml milk
50g palm sugar (replace with brown)
50g white sugar
2 lemongrass stalks
6g gelatin

Spicy orange caramel
200g brown sugar200ml water
1 organic orange, cut in half
2 - 3 thai chilis

1. Mix cream, coconut milk and milk in a pan. Tip in the two types of sugar. 

2. Bruise the lemongrass stalks with the back of a knife (a heavy pestle does a great job too). Add to the pan and simmer gently until the sugars disolve. Turn off heat, cover and let infuse for 30 min.

3. Soften the gelatin in cold water and drain. Add to the cream mixture (it should be warm, not hot), mix and strain everything to get rid of any unesthetic bits.

4. Pour in 8 tiny bowls or glasses. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

5. Meanwhile, you can get busy with preparing the spicy caramel. Mix water and sugar in a pot. Add the halved orange (skin on) and simmer on low heat until the liquid reaches a syrupy consistency - about 30 min.

6. Chop the chilis in fairly large chunks. Bring some water to a boil and drop the chili chunks inside. Let boil for 2 minutes, then drain the water. Add the chilis to the caramel.

7. To serve, briefly plunge the panna cotta bowls in hot water and invert over a dessert plate. Spoon some caramel around.

Happy spring!

Recipe adapted from Cuisiner comme un chef.

This recipe makes 0.08kilos of pure goodness.


Don't miss: special appearance at the culinary event Fourchet Vedet!

In the last post I was revealing my secret recipe for ginger & mustard Japanese dressing. I guess it's time for you to learn why do I cherish this dressing so much.

It's simply because it played an important part in me winning the Fourchet Vedet cooking contest two years ago. The winning dish was lamb sushi and miso aubergines paired with a zingy little watercress salad (with this amazing dressing on top). Don't even wonder if lamb sushi does exist - it doesn't, or at least didn't exist until I had the idea of making it.

Why invent this dubious dish then? Because the aim of the contest was to cook a creative, tasty & beautiful Asian-inspired dish in less than 1 hour, using 4 mandatory ingredients and adding a maximum number of other three ingredients. Needless to say I wished for salmon and all I got
was lamb.

The next year the theme was Turkey and lamb was again on the menu. I asked for
my friend's Călin help this time and we served the lamb sliced in between crispy brick pastry with quince jelly and a pistachio sauce. We won again.

But that was it. I couldn't stand seeing lamb again. In preparation for the contest we must have cooked about 10 kilos of lamb, in any imaginable and unimaginable way, experimenting with countless flavours and cooking methods. I wanted to make a deal with the organizers: they give up the lamb and I give up participating & winning their contest.

Someone must have read the frustration in my eyes. Apart from the lamb, I really enjoyed their contest and I wanted to be part of the fun. And the organizers had a great idea: to put me in the jury! I finally get to say: "dzee aciditee of dze wine combines verrry well with dze euh... dze earrrthiness of dzees mushroom"...

So if you want to see me doing my French accent or if you wonder what will replace lamb this year, come see the show this Saturday, starting at 2 p.m. The cooking contest is part of a bigger event involving tasting of dishes from around the world and it's free. It will also rain on Saturday, so there's nothing better you could do.

Address & other infos on the
site of the event.

Contest photos by my faithful and patient photographer Lucian.


Wasabi beef & plums salad

Though it sounds fancy like everything else on this blog, this is a salad very simple to make. But as you might expect it's a very special one too. The big secret lays in the dressing: an explosion of sweet, salty and spicy of which you can never have enough. Or at least I can't.

Wasabi beef & plums salad for two
2 x 150g beef steaks
1 tsp wasabi paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bag mixed salad leaves
4 plums
1 small red onion
bunch of radishes
toasted sesame seeds

Ginger & mustard dressing
1 tbsp grated ginger 1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar (or lime juice)
1 tbsp mirin (or 1 tsp brown sugar)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

1. Season the beef steaks with salt & pepper. Spread the wasabi on the steaks and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes at least. They will change in color but wouldn't you if you were covered in burning wasabi?

2. Slice the onion and radishes. Pit the plums and cut in eights. Toss with the salad leaves.

3. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Sear the beef on both sides. You will need to adapt the cooking time depending on the thickness of the cut, but usually 3 minutes on each side is enough.

4. Leave the meat to rest for 5 minutes. Cut in thin ribbons and arrange on the salad.

5. Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar, replace the lid and give it a good shake. Pour over the salad. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top or go for gomasio.

Combine with rice for a very satisfying & healthy lunch.

This recipe makes 0.30kilos of pure goodness.


Chorizo & smoked almonds cake

When people ask why I stopped posting I always tell them that we moved and we are still fixing/arranging/changing things in the new house. Though for a period it was true (the stuff you desperately need is always at the bottom of the last box - like your favorite knife) almost a month has passed since we've settled and know in which drawer most things are.

But I'm never short of new excuses: good recipes need time in the making. Sometimes they need 3 times, sometimes 7. Like this cake.

I first read about it on David Lebovitz's blog who adapted a recipe from
Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier. I suspect many people already have a version of their own of this cake so here's my take on it. Instead of pistachios I used smoked almonds which add a deep, earthier flavour, and I added juicy chunks of spinach (nettles would work amazingly too). There are many variations still to be tried, like replacing sesame with poppy seeds or chorizo with prosciutto or adding cheese or olives and what not!

Chorizo & smoked almonds cake
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder

1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
100g spicy chorizo
50g dried tomatoes in oil
100g smoked almonds
2 handfuls fresh spinach or 1 cooked
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat your oven at 180 degrees.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and chili powder.

In another bowl beat the eggs, then add the yogurt and olive oil.

Fold the dry flour mixture into the eggs without overmixing.

Now dice the chorizo and tomatoes. If using fresh spinach, throw it for a minute in boiling water until it softens. Squeeze the excess water.

Gently incorporate the chorizo, tomatoes, spinach and smoked almonds into your dough.

Butter a cake tray. Scatter half of the sesame seeds in the tray, making sure you put some on the edges as well.

Pour the dough, level it and cover with the rest of sesame seeds.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden but still moist.

You can keep the cake in a plastic bag for a few days but it won't last for so long, I'm sure.

This recipe makes 0.75kilos of pure goodness.