The topic of bowls makes food writer and cookbook author Pippa Middlehurst eyes light up. “I just like everything being together and being able to sit with it,” she says matter-of-factly. “One of my pet peeves in life is if you go to an event and there’s a buffet, and you have to sit and eat with the plate off your knee. I hate that so much.
“I like to be settled – it’s ritualistic. I like to be comfy, no restrictive clothing, pyjamas on. This is the ideal, with a bowl of something delicious. I think having variety within the bowl is great”.
Pippa can’t recall the first time she ate noodles, but she can remember the feeling. “My granddad used to take us for dim sum when we were children,” she reminisces. “So my love for Chinese food began with Chinese restaurant food.” Her first dish “would have been [something] like a chow mein – a classic like that, or Singapore vermicelli noodles”, she says.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
For the ramen noodles:
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp kansui
310g high-protein flour (11%)
Potato starch or cornflour (cornstarch), for dusting
For the ramen eggs:
6 medium eggs
4 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp mirin
250ml dashi stock (made from powder) or water (cold)
For the meat sauce:
1 tbsp neutral oil
200g minced beef (>15% fat) or 100g each of minced beef and pork
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce
½ tsp dark soy sauce
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
To season the bowls:
¼ tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns, sieved
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
½ tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar
4 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste
2 tbsp Sichuan chilli oil (or to taste)
2 pak choi, leaves separated
200g fresh ramen noodles or 100g dried ramen noodles
1 ramen egg
600ml chicken or veg broth
1 spring onion, finely sliced
- For the ramen eggs: bring a pan of water to a rapid boil. Lower the eggs gently into the water and cook for exactly six minutes. Remove from the water and run under very cold water for three to four minutes, or plunge into a bowl of water and ice cubes. When completely cool, peel the eggs.
- Combine the soy, mirin and dashi. Submerge the eggs in the liquid and cover with baking paper. Alternatively, place the eggs in a sealable container or resealable plastic bag filled with the liquid. Leave in the fridge overnight to chill and marinate before eating. Will keep in the fridge for up to five days.
- For the ramen noodles (if making): combine the salt, kansui and water, pour over the flour and mix until dry straggles have formed. Bring the dough together into a ball. To do this, apply pressure using the palm of your hand in a downward motion. Continue to do this until the straggles of dough are forced together to form a rough ball and cover with a damp dish towel, and rest for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, set up your pasta roller. Clamp it firmly to your worktop as the dough is extremely hard. Remove the dough from the bowl. Take a rolling pin and press firmly onto the dough, section by section, until the it is thin enough to pass through the pasta roller on its widest setting. Pass the dough through. What will emerge may be quite rough and ragged – this is OK! If the sheet has separated, or holes have appeared, don’t worry. Pass the dough through again on the widest setting and repeat this step until you have one complete sheet of dough, with no holes. Reset the pasta roller setting to the next narrowest setting. Pass the sheet of dough through. Reduce the setting once more, to the third narrowest setting. Pass the dough through.
- Now fold the dough in half, lengthways, and pass through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Repeat this sheeting and folding process until you have a smooth and even-textured sheet of dough. The edges of the sheet may have become dry and cracked – this is a result of the folding – but this is OK. Gently fold the sheet of dough in half and leave to rest for 30 minutes, covered with a clean dish towel.
- Once rested, unfold the dough sheet and pass through the pasta roller again to create a thin sheet – on my pasta roller this is a number five. Pass the dough through the cutting attachment, then lightly dust the noodles with potato starch or cornflour (cornstarch) to keep the strands separate.
- Place in a sealed container or freezer bag. They get better with age and resting them for 24 hours will improve the texture. They are good for up to five days in the fridge, but can also be enjoyed straight away. Cook the noodles in boiling salted water for 90 seconds. Rinse under cold water and serve in your chosen recipe.
- For the tantanmen: put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Blanch the pak choi for 30 seconds, scoop out, then set aside. Cook the noodles in the same water until al dente according to the packet. Drain, then rinse in plenty of cold water to stop them from sticking together. Set aside.
- To make the sauce, heat the neutral oil in a heavy-based frying pan or wok over a high heat. Add the minced meat and let it caramelise for at least one minute, without stirring. Stir, then continue to cook for five to six minutes until browned all over. Add the Chinese five spice and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the rice wine, stir again, then add the sweet bean sauce or hoisin, dark soy sauce and black pepper. Mix well, turn down the heat and cook for another two minutes.
- Add the ramen egg to a mug of boiling water to gently reheat. Heat the broth until steaming.
- To assemble, divide all the bowl seasonings between two serving bowls. Pour in the hot broth and mix well to combine. At the last moment, add the noodles, top with meat sauce, half a ramen egg each, sliced spring onions and the blanched pak choi.
Miso chocolate fondant
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1½ tbsp white miso
50g dark chocolate (70+% cocoa solids)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
60g golden caster sugar
50g plain flour
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4.
2. Add the sesame seeds to a mini food processor, or using a pestle and mortar, crush to form a coarse powder. Butter four seven centimetre ramekins or pudding moulds and sprinkle the crushed sesame seeds inside, coating the bottom and edges of the ramekin completely.
3. Add the butter, miso and chocolate to a heatproof bowl set over a pan of just-simmering water, ensuring the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Melt and combine the mix until smooth, then set aside to cool.
4. Beat the egg, yolk and sugar in a separate bowl until the mixture is thick, pale and airy. Fold in the chocolate miso mixture with a large metal spoon. Sieve in the flour and fold this through.
5. Divide the mixture between the four ramekins and place on the middle shelf of the oven to cook for 12 minutes. Remove and leave to cool for two minutes. As they cool they should shrink away from the edges of the ramekins slightly.
6. Carefully invert the fondants onto a serving plate and serve with your favourite ice cream or pouring cream and a small handful of raspberries.
Jalapeño beef ‘dan dan’ dumplings
(Makes 24–30 dumplings, to serve 4)
400g minced beef (>20% fat)
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp chopped pickled jalapenos
1 tbsp jalapeño pickle juice
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sea salt (any kind)
2 tsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp duck fat or beef fat, melted
3 tbsp sui mi ya cai
24-30 dumpling wrappers or 450g frozen dumpling wrappers
1 tbsp neutral oil
For the dumpling wrappers:
340g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 pinch of fine sea salt
To season the bowls:
8 tbsp Chinese sesame paste
2 tbsp boiling water
4–8 tbsp Lao Gan Ma Crispy Chilli Oil or similar
4 tbsp jalapeño pickle juice
2 tsp light (soft) brown sugar
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 small bunch of chives, finely sliced
1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns, sieved
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, garlic, spring onions, pickled jalapeños and juice, soy sauce, salt, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil and fat. Stir with a wooden spoon in a clockwise direction until it resembles a thick, sticky paste – really beat the beef around the bowl to create this texture. You can incorporate a little more water if necessary. Add the sui mi ya cai and stir through. Place the mixture in the fridge while you prepare the dumpling wrappers.
2. If making your own dumpling wrappers: add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl and stir through with chopsticks or a fork to separate any large lumps. Add the water and quickly combine until a crumbly mixture has formed. Continue to mix until it comes together as a ball of dough. Knead for one to two minutes, then turn out onto the worktop. Continue to knead the dough (by hand or in a stand mixer) for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
3. Mould the dough into a ball and place it inside a freezer bag, or in a bowl covered with a damp, clean dish towel. Leave to rest at room temperature while you prepare the dumpling filling. If you are preparing the dough more than one hour ahead of time, you can leave it to rest in the fridge.
4. Once rested, take the ball of dough and knead it for three to five minutes. Now it should feel very supple and elastic. Cut the ball into thirds, you will be working with one third at a time, so put the other two thirds back into a freezer bag or covered bowl to prevent the dough from drying out.
5. Roll the first dough third into a sausage shape, about 25 centimetres long. You may need to coat your worktop with a sprinkling of flour. Cut the dough into equal two centimetre pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. If you’re not using immediately, store in a container in the fridge.
6. To make a wrapper, take one of the small dough balls and flatten it, using three fingers, into a small disc, similar to a cookie. Roll the dough as thinly as you can, to form a round, 10 centimetres in diameter. Make sure there is a light dusting of flour on each wrapper as they are prone to sticking together. Repeat with the remaining dough, working a third at a time to stop the dough from drying out.
6. Take a dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand and place one large teaspoon of filling in the centre. Bring the edges of the wrapper together and gently press the dough to seal the dumpling. You can add some pleats if you want to, but this isn’t necessary. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and place the completed dumplings on a tray lined with baking paper, at least one cm away from each other.
7. Mix the Chinese sesame paste with the boiling water, and stir to dissolve. To each serving bowl, add two tablespoons of the Chinese sesame paste mixture (this should still be warm from the boiling water), one to two tablespoons chilli oil (to taste), one tablespoon pickle juice and ½ teaspoon sugar. Mix well to combine, until the sugar is dissolved.
8. Heat the neutral oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, and boil the kettle. Add some dumplings to the pan – they will need at least one cm between them, so you may need to cook them in batches. After three to four minutes, the bottoms of the dumplings will become brown and crisp.
9. Add enough boiling water to fill the pan to a depth of about one centimetre. This will create a burst of steam, so make sure your face is a safe distance away! Put a lid on the pan and leave the dumplings to steam for six to eight minutes or until all the water has evaporated. Remove the lid and let the dumplings fry on the bottom of the pan for another minute or two, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly – this will loosen them from the pan and make them easier to scoop out.
10. Serve the dumplings in the sauce, crispy side up. Top with sesame seeds, chives and a pinch of ground Sichuan pepper.
Bowls & Broths by Pippa Middlehurst is published by Quadrille.
Comfort food in a bowl
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