(Theguardian) – Expand your repertoire with mash-up recipes from far-flung sources such as China, Sicily, Japan and Mexico
The word ‘fusion’ is often greeted with suspicion, which I find odd, because these days ideas travel around the world in the time it takes to refresh a mobile phone screen, and many chefs and home cooks seem perfectly happy to mix and match. Personally, I think it’s a great thing, because, so long as it is done considerately, the resulting cross-cultural hybrids can be both eye-opening and delicious. After all, many of the kitchen classics we now idolise would never have come into being if someone somewhere hadn’t thrown caution to the wind and played with a bit of fusion.
‘Caponata’ with silken tofu (pictured above)
Here, caponata (a sweet-and-sour Sicilian aubergine dish) meets mapo tofu (a spicy and aromatic Sichuan tofu dish) in a union so wrong, it’s right. Make twice the amount of caponata, if you like, because it will keep for a week in the fridge and only gets better with time.
Prep 35 min
Cook 45 min
Marinate 2 hr
Serves 6 as a starter
2 medium aubergines, trimmed and cut into 1½cm cubes
120ml sunflower oil
Salt, plus flaked sea salt, to finish
1 small celery stick, finely chopped into ½cm cubes
20g pine nuts, very well toasted
80g ripe cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
20g piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely julienned
5-6 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
4 tsp mixed black and white sesame seeds, toasted
60ml soy sauce
100ml Shaoxing rice wine (or pale dry sherry)
3½ tbsp rice vinegar
2½ tbsp maple syrup
3 large mild red chillies, 2 left whole, 1 deseeded and finely sliced, to serve
600g silken tofu, drained and cut into 6cm x 1½cm rectangles
1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
Heat the oven to 230C (210C fan)/450F/gas 8. Toss the aubergines in 75ml of the oil and a third of a teaspoon of salt and spread out on a large, 40cm x 30cm baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir in the celery and roast for 12-15 minutes more, until the aubergine is golden brown. Leave to cool, then transfer to a large bowl with the pine nuts, tomatoes and three-quarters each of the ginger, spring onions and sesame seeds.Advertisement
Meanwhile, put the raisins, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, vinegar and maple syrup in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat, cook until bubbling, then set aside to soak for at least 10 minutes.
Put the whole chillies in a very hot, dry pan on a high heat and cook for about nine minutes, turning a few times, until well charred all over. Leave to cool slightly, then roughly chop, removing the pith and seeds if you prefer less heat. Add to the aubergine bowl, along with the soaked raisin mixture.
Heat the remaining three tablespoons of oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat until bubbling, then pour this over the aubergine mixture. Add a tablespoon of water, gently mix everything together and leave to marinate for at least two hours, or overnight.
Divide the silken tofu slices between six shallow bowls and sprinkle generously with flaked sea salt. Spoon the caponata next to the tofu, and drizzle about a tablespoon of its liquid over the whole dish. Top with the remaining ginger, spring onions, sesame seeds, sliced chilli and coriander, and serve at room temperature.
Cabbage with ginger cream and chilli oil
The unlikely combination of cream cheese and chilli oil, which has a numbing effect due to the addition of Szechuan pepper, works wonderfully here. This dish doesn’t sit too well, though, so dress the cabbage only just before serving. These quantities will make more oil than you need, but it keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks – it’s lovely with any meat, fish or tofu, or drizzled over rice or noodles.
50g ginger, peeled and finely grated
220g cream cheese
¼ garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp lime juice
1 pointed cabbage, ends trimmed, halved lengthways and leaves separated
1½ tbsp soy sauce
For the oil
150ml sunflower oil
1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1cm piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
½ fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 whole star anise
1 tbsp red bell pepper flakes
1 tsp chilli flakes
1½ tsp Szechuan peppercorns, roughly crushed
¼ tsp salt
1½ tsp tomato paste
1 tsp each black and white sesame seeds
Heat two tablespoons of the sunflower oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the next nine ingredients (including the salt), turn down the heat to medium and fry very gently for five minutes, stirring often, until the shallot is soft. Add the tomato paste and both types of sesame seeds, cook for another two minutes, then stir in the remaining 120ml oil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – if the oil starts to bubble at all, just take it off the heat for a minute – then leave to cool and infuse for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, make the cabbage. Press the ginger through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, to get two tablespoons of ginger juice; discard the pulp. Add the cream cheese, garlic, lime juice and a good pinch of salt, and whisk smooth.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Blanch the cabbage leaves for two minutes, until just cooked, then drain, pat dry with kitchen towel – the leaves shouldn’t be wet – and leave to cool.
Combine the soy sauce with three tablespoons of the numbing oil and a tablespoon of the cooking spices. Spread the cream cheese on to a platter, pile the cabbage leaves on top, then drizzle the oil and soy mixture over and serve at once.
Saffron pasta with chipotle shallots and pickled chillies
If you don’t want to make pasta from scratch, shop-bought fresh tagliatelle also works (if so, cook until al dente as per instructions).
50ml olive oil, plus 2 tbsp extra to serve
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp parsley, finely chopped, plus 1 tbsp extra to serve
60g parmesan, finely grated
For the pasta
225g ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
70g fine semolina
2 whole eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
½ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 75ml boiling water for 1 hour
For the chipotle shallots
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 shallots, peeled, very thinly sliced (use a mandoline, ideally) and rings separated
2 tbsp maple syrup
¾ tsp coriander seeds
¾ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp chipotle flakes
¼ tsp salt
For the pickled green chillies
2 green chillies, cut into thin rounds
2 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
For the pasta, put the flour, semolina, whole eggs, egg yolks, plus two and a half tablespoons of the saffron and its soaking water in the large bowl of a food processor, and pulse for 30 seconds, until it’s the texture of sticky breadcrumbs. Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously for seven minutes, until smooth and pliable. Shape into a ball, cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the shallots. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a high flame, then add all the shallot ingredients and fry for seven minutes; use a spatula to separate the rings as they cook. Turn the heat to medium-low, cook for six minutes more, until caramelised and a deep golden brown, then transfer to a plate lined with baking paper and spread the shallots out – they’ll be a bit sticky, but will crisp up a little as they cool.
Mix all the ingredients for the pickled green chillies in a small bowl.
Secure your pasta machine to a work surface. Divide the dough into four and keep three covered by a tea towel. Shape one piece of dough into a rectangle, then roll it through the widest setting of the machine twice, dusting with flour as you go. Fold in the ragged sides to meet in the middle (like a French window), then turn the sheet and pass it back through the machine twice more, dusting as you go, so all the sides are straight. Click to the next setting and roll the pasta through twice more, dusting as you go. Repeat, rolling the pasta through each setting twice, until you get to the second-last setting (you don’t want the pasta to be too thin). Once you have a long, lightly dusted sheet, fold it in half lengthways about four times, dusting each fold with a little flour, so it doesn’t stick together, then use a very sharp knife to cut into 2cm-thick strips, to make wide tagliatelle. Toss in a little more flour, cover with a clean tea towel and repeat with the remaining dough.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, cook for a minute, stirring with a fork to separate the strands, then drain; reserve 140ml of the cooking water.
Tip the hot pasta into the garlic pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the reserved pasta water, the remaining saffron and its water, the parsley and lots of pepper, and toss. Add the parmesan bit by bit, tossing as it melts, for two to three minutes.
Transfer the pasta to a platter with a lip and dot with ricotta. Top with the shallots, pickled chillies, a teaspoon and a half of the pickling liquid, the last of the parsley and a good grind of pepper, and serve at once.