NOODLES ARE A DOODLE WITH CHEF JP
Chef Jean Pierre shows how noodles can make for healthy and cost-effective snacks and meals
Having lunch with a very special friend today, Dawn Dunn, kinda reminded me of a new dawn and my new horizon mission statement which focusses both on healthy eating and healthy pricing.
It is the time of the year when celebrations are a thing of the past much like the month of January which seems to have rattled on by like a like a passing train. For most of us, the end of January is the time when the budget begins to bite and, with this in mind, I trollied my way down the supermarket isles asking myself just what I’d put on the table by way of snacks and light meals that wouldn’t leave a hole in my pocket.
What I quickly discovered was that that proverbial end-of-the-month Salticrack is anything but a budget beater any longer. In fact, the sad thing is that even Salticracks have become so expensive that we can’t even excuse buying them because they will help us use up all those left overs.
One of the products that I did find was a great way to save but still provide healthy eats was good old noodles which I decided to use to show how, I can combine them with basic pantry elements and healthy alternatives to provide a financially friendly first week of February.
These are ideal for a school lunch or snack, a corporate lunch or even a home cooked family dinner in under 10 minutes. I’m going to guide you on what to buy and where you can save a buck or two. But, once again, if you are cooking for anyone who has a food allergy or sensitivity, please read the small print just to make sure that what you are adding to your shopping basket is what they say it is.
After having an interesting and alarming discussion with my editor today when it comes to labelling and packaging, I admit that I find it appalling how food manufacturers bend the rules. But, don’t be alarmed as we are on a mission at O&A to address this pseudo, packaging movement that bamboozles the consumer through absolute dis-information when it comes to gluten free, vegan and even halal foods. In many instances, these declarations have been prostituted via the main stream marketing agenda with fancy packaging, but no real official truth.
For example, I came across a product recently that was blatantly declared as gluten free – only to whip around to the back of the package and read that it had been made in a factory that manufactures dairy products and might contain trace elements of gluten. It’s the same with the wine scenario. Some wine farms are now forced to maintain probable cause as the wine gets filtered through egg shells and milk – so much for vegan vino.
But, on the bright side, there are some genuine gluten MSG and preservative free ingredients out there – you’ll just have to look carefully.
But back to the kitchen, here are recipes for five days that will keep you cooking and good looking.
To begin with, its time to write down your pantry list whilst sticking to your fresh approach to creative, healthy cooking. This comes with a base of good, healthy starch in the form of noodles – not the rubbish that you buy at the over-priced retailers, rather tapioca, rice and real gluten free noodles which are the only way to fulfil my new dawn healthy and budget friendly eating plan.
So, let me stop doodling and start noodling…
I chose a super extra fine vermicelli noodle that is extremely versatile. As for the cooking methodology when it comes to this gluten free, egg free, and free of any animal tissue, noodle – you don’t even have to cook them. Just soak them in warm water for 3-5 minutes and they are ready to serve.
Another amazing thing is that you can also deep fry them for 2 minutes, until golden and crispy, or even air fry them for 5 minutes, a very healthy alternative. They end up looking like pick up sticks …
NEW YORK NEW YORK
I love combining fruit and proteins as they form a lovely bond. For meat eaters, you can reduce the amount of fat by using the best part of the chicken, the tender breast.
CHICKEN AND APPLE BITES
From your apple tree you need to core 2 fresh Granny Smith apples and grate them as fine as possible to reduce the liquidity
150 grams skinless, boneless chicken breast, diced finely
1/2 a red onion, diced
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
a handful of oatmeal flakes
a handful of milled flour
a squeeze of honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
some oil for frying
1 free range egg / alternative 1 teaspoon of arrow root as a binding agent
2 thin apple slices
100 grams vermicelli
grated fennel for garnish
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons pitted raisins
Spread out the raisins on a clean paper towel and drain all the excess moisture. As we all know, water and oil are not common friends. In a medium sized bowl, mix all your ingredients and round them in to balls. Dust with your flour and shallow fry them for 5 minutes per side until they are crispy.
Place your vermicelli nest in the deep fryer for 5 minutes on 160ºC. Remove and start plating. Drizzle with honey and garnish with your fennel – then you can snack away
THE PEACE TRAIN
With so many conflicts around the globe and borrowing from Cat Steven’s lyrics, we are back on the Peace Train and making a humble but universal favourite – a butternut and red cabbage noodle dish.
When your budget is running thin, it is down to earth basic food ingredients such as these that can keep a smile on your face. This dish might be colourful but when it’s down to staples, you can rest assured that you are also creating a very healthy dish with only three main ingredients – butternut, cabbage and noodles.
After steaming my cubed butternut and sliced red cabbage in a traditional bamboo steamer, I roasted some pumpkin seeds with a dash of olive oil in a sauce pan and grated some cucumber , with a splash of salt and vinegar. I then soaked my vermicelli in warm water and strained it. The noodles will be soft and will add a gentle touch to this simplistic dish.
After 8 to 10 minutes in the steamer, I quickly pan seared the veggies with a dash of olive oil, and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, salt and pepper. Plating is also simple as you can see from the photographs.
Hot or cold , nothing brings a family together (irrespective of the demographics) more than a meat of your choice and a chilli noodle dish. In my demo for you today, I have chosen a healthy cut in the form of ostrich fillet medallions and created a dish with an okra twist, and a hint of tamarind.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with okra, this is a seed pod that is native to Ethiopia and commonly used in Caribbean and Indian cookery. It is filled with tiny white seeds and is sometimes called lady’s fingers due to its long, slender, tube like shape. On the health side, it ticks all the boxes as it is rich in vitamin C and K and contains plenty of anti-oxidants.
This particular dish has been inspired by a chef friend of mine Nami, who is a Japanese born chef who now resides in San Francisco.
Although ostrich is not really common in California, my idea came from the chilli and the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean with a passing reference to a movie that I watched called Okra. We have a Japanese girl, traveling through Tokyo with a very interesting surreal creature.
Talking about surreal looking figures, we also talking about surreal price points as, today, I went to my local supermarket and Salvador Dali whispered in my ear – Chef JP, don’t buy this. Seriously, I was looking to include some healthy broccoli but found that at R41 for a punnet of broccoli the size of my fist, this was not going to help the budget. So, I decided to buy some okra instead at R19 a kg.
I admit that okra is not for everyone. But the same goes for ostrich.
Okra is sometimes disliked because it can be slimy – but cooking them in a bit of bi carb will definitely help. I pan seared mine with an egg wash and some bread crumbs for a lovely crunch. As for the ostrich, it was same conceptual idea. Season the medallions and sear them in a dash of olive oil. Serve them on a bed of vermicelli and garnish with some chopped chilli, garlic chives and a dash of coconut milk.
THE COLOUR OF THE FENCE
When it comes to a traditional curry for all, you can’t say no to a Thai green curry with broccoli. Dammit. I was forced to purchase the R41 broccoli just for this. The saying goes that it is always greener on the other side, but have you thought about what the colour of the fence is?
Everyone has their own version of this classic Thai dish. For me, broccoli works, but, eish, at this price, I guess we are just suckers for punishment. If you want it, you have to surrender to the price tag.
Chicken is still the most economically priced protein. Served up in a classical copper pan, this is a dish to be shared by the whole family. So, tuck in and enjoy!
FROM THE PANTRY
700 grams chicken thigh fillets
1 fistful of over-priced broccoli florets
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
250 ml coconut cream
1 teaspoon fish sauce
a dash of soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoons Thai curry paste
20 grams unsalted butter
10 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon green onion powder
salt and pepper
100 grams vermicelli
Cut your chicken thighs in to trips and pan sear them in some butter and olive oil. Set to rest. Steam your broccoli florets for 5 minutes and add all your ingredients back in the pan. Simmer for 6 minutes, add the two eggs and stir it up for 1 minute. Serve with your deep fried vermicelli and season and garnish with same salt and pepper.
TOFU TOFU TOFU
Tofu has been on the lips of so many vegetarians for a long time. If you need to serve up protein as part of your noodle dish but want to stay away from meat, then tofu is always a good stand by. Over the years, it has grown on me to the point where I now include it in many of my recipes.
Although at O&A, we have published a tofu blog, I decided to revisit this and bring it back as a basic food element with a new generational health benefit and as a price conscious alternative. Below is a picture of how I included tofu in one of my noodle dishes.
Our next food blog will veer away from basic, healthy and cost conscious all in the name of celebrating Valentine’s Day. We’ll splash out a little and add some colour to our celebration – watch this space!
Meanwhile, remember to buy fresh, keep your sense of humour in the shopping isles, always be clever and conscious, buy for today, cook for today and live for today.