I’m still here. I’m so sorry for only getting this menu to you now. I had a very busy week and a very busy weekend and when all was said and done on Saturday, I just felt a bit…funny. I’ve started doing some consulting work for my old employer – setting up a Quality Management system for them. And I had a special order of sandwiches and breakfast packs on Saturday. And all my time was spent on those two things. Which meant the menu writing and sending just kept getting push out. And the more it got pushed out, the more guilty I felt. Because I love sending this letter to you all. And I still want it to be informative and slightly educational and whimsical and funny but I don’t know if I have the time to do all that anymore.
I realised about two hours ago that, that is why I’ve been feeling all confused. I kind of feel like I’ve let you guys down. And I know that’s mostly driven by my own anxiety and insecurity but the feeling is there nonetheless. I’m excited for the new phase of my business but I’m also a little sad that it’s not just you and me anymore. I suppose that’s what a growing business is. Excitement at what’s to come mixed with a bit of mourning around moving on from all you’ve achieved before.
So, I’m figuring out how to navigate this new space – the space where this menu (and its Food Letter) and its orders are not my only priority. I hope you’ll stick with me while I do. I expect that this letter will change. Sometimes it may be short. Sometimes it may be long (let’s be honest sometimes it may be far too long) but I want it to be here. Thank you to everyone that spends 10 minutes reading it. I’m so grateful that you do. And for those that don’t have the time to read my rambling thoughts:
TLDR; I’m getting increasingly busy; the Food Letter is changing but the Menu will be sent regardless.
Here’s to a new Vol.34!
Quick recap of what the frozen dishes are all about:
Kimchi and tofu dumplings with dipping sauce – I didn’t get the expected number of orders the last time I put dumplings on the menu – so I’m not sure if you guys still like them. I’ll see how this week’s response is and might consider retiring these little guys from the menu in future. They are truly delicious though and a seriously easy bit of food to have in your freezer. This filling is a mixture of kimchi, carrot and tofu. The tofu is really only there to bulk out the filling. The flavour comes from the kimchi. A spicy, salty, sour flavour – kimchi is pickled cabbage after all. There’s a little sweetness from the carrots and some garlic and ginger for extra kick. Each bit of filling is encased in a dumpling wrapper which you then fry until brown and crispy and then steam until cooked throughout. They can ready in 15min (and that includes the time it takes for your non-stick pan to heat up). Great as a quick snack or a light dinner.
Beef schnitzel with Rösti – I have to admit, whenever I feel overwhelmed or a little down, I want to eat Austrian food. The hearty Austrian cuisine holds a special place in my heart and I have many memories of digging into Schnitzel, Fleckerlspeis, Palatschicken, Rindsuppe with Fritatten, Topfenauflauf, Marillenknödel, cripsy Brathuhn and all the lovely (slightly sweet) salads.
The most easily recognisable dish in that list is Schnitzel and it’s what’s on the menu this week. I’ll have to see how/if I introduce you to all the other ones. Schnitzel needs very little introduction. The thing that differentiates mine/Austrian ones is that they’re beef. Technically they should be veal but I can’t really make peace with that cut of meat. They’re also hammered down until really thin. I aim for under 5mm – this ensures the meat cooks quickly and is tender but also means a small piece of beef becomes a large (and often awkwardly shaped) schnitzel. The meat is dusted in flour, dipped in egg and coated with fine breadcrumbs. It has to be fried in at least a 1cm of HOT oil. You want it to sizzle from the get go. If fried correctly the breadcrumb coating sort of puffs up and separates from the surface of the meat. The separated bits sometimes fall off as you transfer the schnitzel to the plate and make for the yummiest little snack. That much on the topic of schnitzels. The Rösti that I serve with my schnitzel is actually more of a Swiss dish. Bar boiled potato is cooled and then roughly grated. The mixture is seasoned with good old S&P and plenty of nutmeg. Then the magic happens. Plenty of butter is heated in the pan, in goes the potato mixture and I just let it sit and fry and crisp up and caramelise for about 10 minutes. Next up is a pan flip followed by another ten minutes for the other side. What you end up with is another potato heaven (another because I feel there’s just so many potato heavens to be had). All that’s left for you to do at home is to heat up the Rösti either in a dry pan or in a hot oven. Hearty comfort food awaits.
Pumpkin and bulgur wheat filo pie – This pie made its debut earlier this year. And it was my introduction into an ingredient I feel like I should have started using far earlier in my kitchen exploits. Bulgur wheat! What a great little grain. Pretty much just as easy to prepare as couscous but with a little more bite. Not as strongly flavoured as Quinoa or Barley – it makes for a perfect ingredient. And it has a lovely colour to boot. It’s not really the star of the show in this dish though. That quite firmly goes to the pumpkin.
*Side dive into the ongoing vegetable personality reveal saga ! Pumpkin is most definitely the star of any show – regardless of whether you want him to be or not. He’s always been quite chunky but decided early to yield his weight as a mark of pride and power. Sometimes a little too much power – the giggles skinny spring onion let slip when pumpkin passed by were met with some pretty bullish behaviour (some might even say pumpkin can be a bit of a bully). Maybe that’s why I cook pumpkin in the most “brutal way”. Roasted at high temperature. Because skinny spring onion didn’t deserve to be quite so humiliated. Once pumpkin is soft though, he makes for a great friend. It’s like he forgets about his size and simply wants to embrace everyone around him – like the big softy he actually is. Hmm…maybe that’s what was missing from pumpkin’s early life – not enough fiery love? Well, I’m happy to supply it now.
Back to the pie. The pumpkin’s gorgeous sweet flavour (enhanced by some raisins) is balanced by a splash of red wine vinegar, fresh parsley and fresh coriander. I could eat bowls of this filling – it’s absolutely scrumptious. The filling is wrapped in layers of filo pastry and topped with pumpkin seeds (pumpkin’s rather strict and prudish aunt). Once baked you’ve got a lovely contrast of crispy filo pastry and soft, hearty filling. Definitely worth having one of these in the freezer.
For the fresh dishes this week I’ve included another Ottolenghi gem from Plenty. And with some really hot temperatures making a repeat appearance it was time those fresh fresh fresh summer rolls made another appearance.
Glass noodles with edamame beans and crispy tofu – I actually made this dish for myself sometime last year. At the time it was an attempt to get over my confusion surrounding tamarind paste. If you remember this was at the time when I didn’t know about tamarind paste vs tamarind pulp. So even though the dish looked a bit funny to me I remember that I was stunned by the flavour. It’s what kept me wanting to figure out this tamarind stuff. Well, I’ve figured it out now and want to share this dish with you. It’s simple enough. The dressing is a mixture of Thai flavours – ginger, lime, peanut oil, palm sugar, soy sauce and tamarind. The glass noodles (those wonderfully translucent worms) are mixed with edamame beans, fresh chilli, coriander and mint. The whole combination is zingy and fresh and light. And frankly, just great! To bulk out the salad I’ve decided to serve it with some deep-fried crispy tofu. Please heat the tofu separately as the salad is really great if served at room temperature.
Prawn summer rolls/red curry and brown sugar tofu summer rolls –
I think most of you will know these by now. Their main descriptor is FRESH!! But said in that way Gretchen Wiener in Mean Girls says “FETCH”. To which I say: yes! Fresh IS going to happen! Back off Regina! Point being these guys are kind of pretentious but super tasty nonetheless. The prawn ones are filled with mint, prawns, glass noodles (double glass noodles! It’s a glass noodle party this week!), lettuce, finely sliced carrot, red pepper and cucumber, and an assortment of other fresh herbs. The whole thing is delicately wrapped in a rice paper wrapper. The wrappers are surprisingly both weak and extremely sticky. Rolling these guys up can be a bit tricky. But they do look rather pretty in the end, don’t you think?
The tofu ones are a little more complicated. They involve a mixture of garlic, ginger and spring onion that is “cooked” in hot oil. You simply pour hot oil of the grated mixture. The garlic and ginger therefore retain their sharp flavour but are sufficiently softened to not taste raw. This paste and oil mixture is just one of the ingredients that go into the roll. The fresh ingredients are as follows: carrot, red pepper, red cabbage and coriander. And then there’s the tofu. I use thinly sliced pressed tofu for this. It’s marinated in a mixture of red curry paste, muscovado sugar and some tamarind. Once it’s had a chance to absorb some of that flavour the little matchsticks of tofu are fried until golden and slightly crunchy. It’s difficult not to snack on them when assembling the rolls to be quite honest. In any case, once assembled they make for another slick and sexy looking dish. And tasty too! The prawn rolls have a fish sauce based FIERY dipping sauce. The tofu rolls a sweet and sour one.
Cinnamon Rolls – I’m sure you can guess why I put these on the menu this week. They were my first foray into the dessert option and felt like a fitting choice to give some stability to my confused self. Plus, they’re sooooo good .
The dough is super soft and rich and pillowy. The cinnamon, golden syrup and butter mixture just melts into and out of the dough as it bakes. And then there’s just a little bit of icing sugar glaze over the top. Eaten fresh out of the oven they are so so so satisfying. Mostly because the smell of cinnamon has got your mouth watering already. But I find that they’re also wonderful when warmed through in the microwave for 15 seconds. They go sort of gooey but perfectly “pull-apart-able” (a made-up word that I hope you understand). Can’t wait for the leftovers! Breakfast, afternoon treat and post dinner dessert sorted for as long as I have supply.
There you have it. This was another of those super long Food Letters. The website version will go up tomorrow. Thanks for reading and I hope you order. Bye!.
Now that you’ve read all about the meals, why not order!?