Chicken and Kale with Oyster Sauce

It may not be commonly used in Chinese cooking, but kale is a fantastic ingredients to stir-fry with. It cooks quickly and doesn’t release much moisture when it cooks, so it stops the common home-cooking problem of have a wet, stewing wok rather than one that is frying on high heat.

Ingredients

1 bunch kale, washed

440g boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 4 thighs)

6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra if needed

1 brown onion, peeled and sliced

2 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tsp Shaoxing wine

about ½ cup water or stock

1 tsp cornflour mixed with a little of the water or stock

 

Chicken marinade

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp Shaoxing wine

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

Method

Prepare the kale by removing the thick stalks from the leaves with a knife and tearing the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Slice the chicken into large pieces (about 6 pieces per thigh) and combine with the marinade ingredients.

Heat your wok over high heat and pour the oil around the sides of the wok. Add the onion and garlic and toss for a minute or two until the garlic is lightly browned and fragrant. Remove the onion and garlic from the wok and add it to the kale, leaving as much oil in the wok as possible (although you can add more oil to the wok if there is too little remaining).

Return the wok to the heat, and when the oil is hot add the chicken. Fry for about 3 minutes until browned but not yet cooked through. Add the kale, onion and garlic to the wok and toss to coat the kale in the oil. As the kale starts to wilt, add the oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and a few tablespoons of water or stock. Toss for a further 2 minutes until the kale is softened, adding more water or stock if needed to form a thick sauce to coat the chicken and kale. If the liquid is looking too thin, add a little of the cornflour mixture to thicken the sauce to a consistency that coats the chicken. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

Tips

  • Don’t cut the garlic too small, or it will burn and have a bitter flavour.
  • This will work well with pork or beef, too.
Hainanese-style Kaya and Kaya Toast

I think kaya toast might be the Hainanese community’s greatest contribution to the cuisine of the Malay peninsula. They took the traditional coconut jams found around Asia and boosted its flavour with dark caramel, combining it with toast and hand-roasted coffee for the original Hainanese café experience now found all over Singapore and Malaysia.

Ingredients

10 eggs

600-750g caster sugar plus 50g extra for making caramel (I prefer to use 750g, but the recipe will work with as low as 600g)

5 pandan leaves, tied in a knot

400g coconut cream

¼ tsp salt

20g butter, plus thick slices of butter to serve

white or wholemeal bread, to serve

Method

For the kaya, combine the eggs and sugar in a tall, slender pot and with a whisk, slowly stir in one direction for about 20 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t lift the whisk out of the kaya as that will create air bubbles.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a simmer and place a tea towel at the bottom of the pot. Place the tall pot into the water and stir for 5 minutes to ensure the mixture is fully dissolved. Add the pandan leaves and coconut cream and stir frequently for about 30 minutes to 1 hour (or more) until thickened. The time it takes to thicken will depend on your heat, and also the amount of liquid from the coconut cream (see note) but it is important to make sure the kaya is thick before adding the caramel.
Heat the remaining sugar in a small pot until a dark caramel forms. Stir through the butter and add to the kaya. Stir for a few more minutes until well-combined.
For the kaya toast grill the bread until well-toasted. Cut off the crusts and cover with thick slices of butter. Spread over lots of kaya, cut in half, and serve, preferably with thick Hainanese coffee. For wafer-style kaya toast, grill the bread on both sides then slice each slice in half horizontally and fill with slices of butter and a generous spread of kaya. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8mpepg1lKM

Notes

  • If using a canned coconut cream, don’t shake the can before use. Open the top carefully and scoop out just the thick coconut cream from the top, leaving the watery liquid in the can. The volume will be less than 400ml, but you don’t need to top it up as the liquid will just need to be cooked off in the cooking process anyway. Using just the thick portion of the coconut cream will reduce the cooking time.
  • I like to use a cheese slicer to get even slices of butter.
Braga-style duck rice

Arroz de Pato à Moda de Braga

Serves 8

When I was travelling in Portugal many years ago this dish was right at the top of my list to try. However, it’s such a homestyle classic dish it was difficult to find a restaurant that served it. Luckily, my Portuguese friend called ahead to one of Porto’s most respected restaurants, Líder. The chef said that although they didn’t have it on the menu, he would be happy to make it especially for me if I came for dinner the next night. Of course, we eagerly accepted. It’s become a favourite of ours ever since – not just because it’s a delicious dish, but because it reminds me of the exquisite hospitality we received in Portugal. I’ve never felt so welcomed in a country.

Ingredients

1 whole duck (around 2kg)

½ cup pinot noir or other light red wine

1 small bunch parsley, leaves picked (or use coriander instead)

1 brown onion, halved

3 tsp salt

3 bay leaves

8 cloves

50g butter, plus another 25g for topping the rice

1 Portuguese chouriço, or Spanish chorizo

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 small carrot, finely diced

700g uncooked rice

50g pancetta or other cured ham, sliced

lemon wedges, to serve

Method

Place the duck in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add half of the onion, the stalks of the parsley, salt, bay leaves, cloves and red wine and bring to a simmer. Skim the scum rising to the surface of the pot and simmer, covered for 1.5 hours. Remove the duck from the pot, strain the stock and cool the stock until the fat solidifies. (This can be easily done by transferring it to smaller containers and chilling in the fridge.) Remove the fat and reserve it for another purpose.

Pick the meat from the duck, removing the skin and any visible fat. Roughly chop or tear the meat and place it in the base of a large, heavy baking dish.

Heat your oven to 180C. Finely dice the remaining onion. Slice about 10 thin slices of chouriço and finely dice the remainder. In a large saucepan heat the butter over medium heat and fry the onion, garlic and carrot for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the diced chouriço and fry until lightly browned. Add the rice and stir to coat. Measure 1.5L of the duck stock and add it to the pan. Bring the rice mixture to the boil, and simmer for around 5 minutes until the level of the stock reaches the top of the expanding rice.

Pour the rice and any remaining stock in the pot over the top of the duck and smooth the top. Arrange slices of the chouriço and pancetta over the top, and dot the top of the rice with the remaining butter. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and grill the top of the rice until it is lightly browned.

Finely shred the leaves of the parsley, season the rice with a little more salt and pepper and serve the rice with the parsley (or coriander) and lemon wedges.

Tips

  • I prefer not to use the duck fat to fry the rice, as I feel it begins to overwhelm the dish with rich duck flavour. The reserved fat is great for roasting potatoes, though.
  • You really need to skim the scum from the stock well. The protein in the scum will remove a lot of the purple characteristics of the wine, so it doesn’t stain your final dish.
  • If you prefer, you can use white wine in the stock instead of red.
Waterfall Duck (Nam Tok Ped)

Nam tok literally means ‘waterfall’ in Thai, but in the context of this dish it refers to the juices released by the grilled duck. Nam tok is a lot like a larb, in the sense that it is a spicy, meaty salad. The big difference is that the duck is grilled rather than simmered or raw (as some larbs are made).

You could make this with grilled beef, pork or chicken, but it’s particularly good with duck as it gives you a lovely texture from crispy skin, and a little of the rendered duck fat mixes with the juices and dressing ingredients to create a delicious coating.

 

Ingredients

Serves 4, as part of a shared meal

2 duck breasts, around 225g each

1 tbsp uncooked brown rice, glutinous rice, or other raw rice

½ red onion, thinly sliced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

tbsp fish sauce

tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)

1 tsp dried chilli powder

1/4 tsp caster sugar

½ cup roughly chopped mint and coriander leaves, plus extra sprigs to serve

cucumber, to serve

cherry tomatoes, to serve

Method

Place the duck breasts skin-down in a dry frying pan and place the pan over medium heat. Cook for 6 minutes, then flip and cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Remove the duck to a warm plate to rest for about 5 minutes.

Add the rice to a separate dry saucepan and heat over medium heat, swirling constantly for about 5 minutes until the rice starts to pop and gives off a toasty aroma. Grind the rice with a mortar and pestle to a coarse powder.

Combine the onions, fish sauce, lime juice, chilli powder and sugar in a non-reactive bowl and mix well.

Slice the duck into ½ cm slices and combine with the onion mix, then add the rice powder and chopped herbs and toss well. Serve immediately with extra herbs and raw vegetables.

Key Points

  • The roasted rice adds a brilliant texture to the dish. It’s usually made with raw glutinous rice but any rice will be fine. It can be tempting to skip that step but the dish won’t be the same without it.
  • Many recipes don’t add sugar, but I prefer a touch of sweetness to balance the savoury fish sauce and sour lime.
  • Keep the duck medium rare and it will remain tender. The acid in the lime will cook it a little more after the salad is mixed so if it’s too well done then it will be overcooked, and won’t release the juices that are necessary for the dressing.
  • I use a mild Korean chilli powder as it’s big on chilli flavour, but mild in heat. Adjust the type of chilli powder and quantity to your taste.
How to Make an Authentic Prawn Laksa

This is a recipe for a simple but authentic prawn laksa lemak is a lot easier than it looks. You could easily add chicken or other seafood to this recipe if you preferred.

Ingredients

1 kg raw, unpeeled large prawns

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup dried shrimp, soaked in hot water

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 x 425 ml tins coconut milk

250 g fried tofu puffs, halved

1 kg fresh Hokkien noodles

200 g dried rice vermicelli noodles

200 g fried fish cakes, sliced

300 g bean sprouts

8 eggs

1 cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves, finely shredded to serve

1 Lebanese cucumber, shredded, to serve

Laksa paste (makes double)

15 dried chillies, seeded and soaked in hot water for around 20 minutes

4 large red chillies, seeded

1 tablespoon belacan (shrimp paste)

6 shallots, or 1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped

10 garlic cloves, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled

3 lemongrass stems, white part only

2 tablespoons ground coriander

6 candlenuts, or macadamia nuts

Chilli sambal

5 dried chillies, soaked

3 large red chillies

2 eschallots, or 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon belacan (shrimp paste)

½ cup peanut oil

a pinch of sugar

 

Method

Peel the prawns, leaving the tails on. Add two-thirds of the shells to the a pot with 2.5L of water and simmer for a 20 minutes. Stand for at least 10 minutes, then strain, discarding the shells and reserving the stock. Devein and butterfly the prawns and refrigerate. Grind the dried shrimp to a wet, coarse powder in a small blender, or pound using a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Blend all the laksa rempah ingredients into a smooth paste.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the remaining prawn heads and shells until very fragrant, then remove the heads and shells leaving the oil in the pan. Add half the laksa rempah (refrigerate the rest for another laksa) and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oil separates from the paste. Add the reserved chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the dried shrimp and its soaking liquid, salt, sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the tofu puffs and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Simmer the prawns in the soup for 3 minutes, or until just cooked, then remove and set aside. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as required.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the packet directions. Boil the fish cake for about 2 minutes, or until puffed, then drain. Blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. Boil the eggs for 7 minutes, then refresh in a basin of iced water and peel. Halve the eggs.

For the chilli sambal, blend all the chillies together with the shallot and belacan. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and fry the paste in the peanut oil for about 10 minutes, or until very fragrant, stirring frequently. Stir in the sugar and set aside for serving.

To assemble each laksa, warm a noodle bowl. Add some hokkien noodles, vermicelli, bean sprouts, egg, and prawn to the bowl. Ladle in some soup, then garnish with Vietnamese mint, cucumber and a big spoon of chilli sambal. Serve immediately.

 

How to Make Authentic Char Siew (Cantonese Barbecue Pork)

If you’re anything like me, it’s almost impossible to walk past a Cantonese barbecue shop without picking up a pack of char siu (barbecue pork), siu yuk (roast pork belly) or any other of the sticky, crispy, shiny and delicious meats on offer. The thing is, they’re amazingly easy to make at home as well. This authentic char siu recipe will give you excellent results that are even better than buying them from the shop.

Ingredients

1.5kg pork neck or belly (skin and bone removed), cut in 5cm strips

Marinade

30g (2 tbsp) sugar

40g (2 tbsp) Hoisin sauce

20g (1 tbsp) red fermented bean curd plus 40ml (2 tbsp) of its liquid

3g (1 tsp) five spice powder

15g garlic (4 cloves) crushed with ¼ tsp salt

20ml (1 tbsp) ginger juice

20g (1 tbsp) soy sauce

40g (2 tbsp) Shaoxing wine

Glaze

30g 2 tbsp sugar

40ml 2 tbsp water

80g 4 tbsp maltose

 

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl and add the pork. Coat the pork well the marinade (I do this by hand, wearing gloves). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8 hours).
  2. When ready to cook, combine the ingredients for the glaze and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Heat your oven to as hot as it will go. I cook this at 230C (fan-forced). Cover a tray with foil (there will be a lot of caramel drips that will burn to black, so this just helps with the clean up) and place a tray on top. Brush the tray with oil and place the pork on top. Roast for 15 minutes.
  4. While the pork is roasting, bring the glaze to a boil again. When the pork has roasted for 15 minutes, brush with the hot glaze and roast for 5 minutes. Brush with the hot glaze again and roast for 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the glaze again and allow to rest. After the pork has rested for about 10 minutes, brush with the glaze one last time.

(L to R) Maltose, red fermented tofu, and Hoisin sauce.

Red fermented tofu. This gives the char siu a delicious savoury flavour and also helps with the colour.

A video for this recipe is coming soon, but for now take a look at this one!

Additional Tips

  • The three ingredients you might find a little odd are the maltose, red fermented tofu and Hoisin sauce. All of these are common ingredients in Chinese cooking and will be available from any Asian grocery store.
  • The roasting process is really important for getting good colour on the meat. The vibrant red colour on the char siu is a little to do with the red fermented tofu but really it’s more a factor of good browning of the meat, and getting good caramelisation of the glaze. You don’t need to add food colouring (although some shops do – it’s up to you really).
  • The glaze should to be hot when brushing it on the pork in the oven so that it caramelises easily.
  • In a Chinese barbecue oven the meat will hang on a hook so that it browns well. In a domestic oven it’s difficult to try and hang meats so it’s better just to use a tray. You don’t need to flip the meat while it’s cooking as that will just damage the glaze. Better to have 3/4 of a piece of meat beautifully glazed with a base that isn’t quite perfect than to keep flipping it and end up with a bad glaze all over.

It’s best to marinade the pork at least overnight but you can leave it for 2 days if you prefer. If you’re in a rush you could cook it after an hour but it won’t be quite as tender or flavourful.

There will be lots of dripping glaze that will burn in the oven, so line your tray and oil the rack so that they’re easier to clean.

Good browning and charring on the meat in it’s initial cooking phase is essential both for flavour and colour in the final char siu.

Multiple layers of glaze build up to give a lovely shiny look to the final product.

Wok-fried Prawns and Broccoli in Ginger Sauce

Wok cooking doesn’t always mean throwing everything into the wok together. One of the most important parts of wok cooking that nobody ever seems to talk about is how easy a wok is to brush out so that multiple ingredients (or dishes) can be cooked separately and in quick succession. That is the true secret to a wok’s versatility and what makes it great for home cooking. Imagine cooking different 5 dishes in one pot and having nothing to wash at the end of it all other than a quick brush out under running water.

Ingredients

1 head of broccoli, separated into florets

¼ cup peanut oil

1 eschallot, finely minced

12 large raw prawns, peeled (tails intact) and deveined

1 cup chicken stock

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 tbsp light soy sauce

½ tsp sugar

½ tsp salt, plus extra for seasoning

2 tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp cornflour mixed to a slurry with 2 tbsp chicken stock

Method

Heat about 2 cups of water in your wok and add 1 tbsp of oil. Bring to a simmer and add the broccoli. Simmer the broccoli for about 2 minutes until tender, then remove and set aside. Drain the water and return the wok to the heat.

Add a further 1 tbsp of oil in the wok and add the eschallot, frying for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the prawns, a pinch of salt and stir-fry until the prawns are cooked through. Transfer the broccoli and prawns to a warm serving plate.

Return the wok to the heat and add the stock, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar and salt and bring to a simmer. Squeeze the juice of the ginger only into the sauce. Add the cornflour slurry and stir until the sauce is thickened. Pour the sauce over the prawns and broccoli and serve.

Here’s a video to walk you through it:

Extra Hints

  • This dish works great with squid, too. Any seafood really. In Asian cooking, ginger is often used with seafood to counteract fishy aromas.
  • Butterflying the prawns is very important. It helps to create a lovely springy texture.
  • Woks – like all pans – are best cleaned directly after using them. I don’t wash my wok with soap, as it can impact on the natural seasoning of the metal that makes it non-stick. All a wok needs to clean it is a quick brush out under running water (do it while the wok is hot, but make sure you’re using a natural fibre brush – cheap plastic ones will melt on the hot wok) and then put it back on the heat to dry and sterilise. The ability to quickly clean a wok is what makes it such a useful tool for family cooking.

Korean Fire Chicken – Buldak

Be warned, this recipe is HOT – and in the best possible way. Buldak or “Fire Chicken” is a favourite Korean street food chicken dish known for its intense heat and rich, complex flavour.

It started from roaming street carts in Seoul that grilled the chicken covered in the spicy sauce over open flame fire pits, but these days you can find Fire Chicken in Korean restaurants all over the world. I’m not usually one to try to push chilli to the limits of tolerance. I usually think that chilli should be a gentle background heat rather than all-out flamethrower, but for this one dish I put that rule to one side. The hotter this dish is, the more the chilli brings out the complexity in the sauce. It honestly does taste better the more it hurts!

Give it a try once and you’ll be hooked. You’ll probably end up in a red, sweaty heap crumpled in your chair afterwards, but I guarantee you’ll have a smile on your face 🙂

Ingredients

1 whole free-range chicken (approx. 1.7kg)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 spring onions, finely sliced

¼ head cabbage, finely shredded, to serve

2 tbsp Korean or Japanese mayonnaise, to serve

sesame leaves (Korean perilla), to serve (optional)

pickled daikon, to serve (optional)

Fire chicken sauce

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp Korean chilli powder (mild or hot, as you prefer)

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp hot English mustard

1-3 red bird’s eye chillies (as you prefer)

3 cloves garlic, peeled

½ large onion (peeled and cut into chunks)

½ large nashi (Asian pear) (peeled and cut into chunks)

 

Method

  1. With a cleaver, cut the chicken into 10-12 pieces, on the bone. If you prefer, you can use around 1.25kg boneless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks. Combine the chicken with the soy sauce, sake and black pepper and set aside.
  2. For the Fire chicken sauce, combine all the ingredients in a blender and process to a smooth paste. If you add the ingredients in the order in this recipe, you won’t need to wash your measuring spoon between measurements.
  3. Heat the oil in a large shallow casserole dish or frying pan over high heat and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium, add the fire chicken sauce and stir to combine. Cook for around 8 minutes, stirring frequently until the chicken pieces are cooked through. Scatter with the spring onion and serve with the shredded cabbage, mayonnaise, sesame leaves and pickled radish, if using.

Here’s a video of how to make it:

Additional Tips

  • Make sure you use proper Korean chilli powder instead of ordinary Western chilli powders, which often have more heat, less colour and less chilli flavour. Don’t be worried if your sauce looks a little more pale than mine after you’ve finished blending, the colour will come after it sits for a few minutes.
  • Korean chilli powders come in different heat strengths. If you prefer a more mild chicken dish use a more mild powder rather than using less volume of a hotter chilli powder.
  • If you’re not confident cutting up a chicken on the bone, it’s totally fine to make this dish with boneless chicken thigh pieces instead.
  • Another variation of this dish (particularly when using boneless chicken) is to include sliced Korean rice cakes (tteokgukyong-tteok) and bake it covered in cheese!
  • Don’t skip the accompaniments. The cabbage and pickles really do help to balance the heat.

 

Caramel-braised Beef Short Ribs

Beef short ribs are a truly fantastic cut of meat. You can eat them like a steak, or stew them until their falling apart, and either way they won’t let you down. On the bone, they add mountains of flavour to a stew. This simple recipe is one of those where you just throw everything into the pot and let it go. Give it a try.

Serves 6-8

 

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp sesame oil

2kg beef short ribs

¼ cup Shaoxing wine

½ cup light soy sauce

¼ cup dark soy sauce

2 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tbsp toban jian (Sichuan chilli-bean sauce)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 small bulb garlic, unpeeled, split in half crossways

1 onion, unpeeled, halved

5 slices ginger

4 thin spring onions, thinly sliced, to serve

1 bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced, to serve

½ cup coriander leaves, to serve

steamed rice, to serve

 

Method

  1. Place a heavy casserole over medium-high heat and add ½ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water. Bring to a golden caramel and then add the sesame oil and short ribs, rolling to coat in the caramel. Add the Shaoxing wine, the soy sauces, spices, toban jian, garlic, ginger, onion, remaining sugar, and top up with water. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours until the short ribs are tender, stirring occasionally. Adjust for seasoning as required.
  2. Transfer the ribs to a serving plate and spoon over a little of the braising liquid. Scatter with the coriander, spring onions, and chilli to serve.

You can watch a video of this being made here:

 

Additional Tips

  • Instead of short rib you could also use chuck steak, shin, osso bucco, ox tail, or any other slow-cooking cut.
  • You could also cook this in the oven if you preferred. Cook everything on the stove until you get to the long-simmering part, then transfer it to a 170C oven for about 3 hours.

Hulk Spaghetti

Our kids usually just eat the same things that we adults eat, which is a great way to feed them as they learn to appreciate new foods and it makes life a lot easier when you only have to cook once. That said, I don’t think it’s great for kids to eat the same as adults all the time as it can very quickly lead to the adults just cooking and eating slightly boring food all the time. I still make the curries and other strong, spicy  or challenging dishes I grew up with that my kids just aren’t ready for, but that I don’t want to lose as part of their (and my) culinary heritage. Part of learning about food as a kid is watching what your parents eat, even if you might not want to eat it yourself.

On those occasions I need to make something separate for the kids, and right now this vegetarian Hulk Spaghetti is a real favourite of our superhero obsessed son, Christopher. It’s not just for kids either.

Ingredients

Serves 4-8 kids, depending on their ages (or in our case, 2 kids 4 times)

500g dried spaghetti

1/2 head broccoli, in florets and including stalk cut into large chunks

5-6 leaves of kale, or 2 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup cream (optional)

2 tbsp butter or 2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 sheet nori, cut into 5cm strips and very finely shredded

 

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it for cooking the pasta. Add the broccoli and kale to the water and boil for about a minute. Remove with tongs and transfer to a blender. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to the packet directions.
  2. After about half of the cooking time of the pasta has elapsed, add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the blender and blend the vegetables to a puree. Add the cream and butter (or olive oil) and allow the butter to melt a little before blending to a smooth sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning.
  3. When the pasta is al dente, drain it well and return it back to the pot on low heat (or a separate frying pan, if that is easier). Add the sauce and parmesan and stir briskly to combine. Divide the spaghetti between bowls and top with the shredded nori for the Hulk’s hair.

 

Additional Tips

  • Tasting the sauce in step 2 is the most important part. If the sauce doesn’t taste good on its own, it won’t taste good with the pasta. Taste and adjust it to the seasoning and texture you prefer.
  • Always finishing cooking pasta together with the sauce rather than just ladling or pouring it on top. This allows the al dente pasta to absorb the flavours of the sauce and with make your pasta much, much tastier every time.
  • As a variation to this you could add a bit of chopped ham, or some peas (or both) but don’t overdo the ingredients. Pasta should be about the pasta, not the stuff you put in it.
  • If you can’t be bothered slicing the nori for the Hulk’s hair (it can be a bit difficult if your knife isn’t very sharp), you can just wave it over a gas flame for a few seconds until the nori becomes brittle and then crumble it over the top.