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Mr Lemur likes most things but for some reason he is highly skeptical about Korean food. Maybe it’s because of the infamous New York Korean gristle palace, where we managed to order giant plates of chewy tendon with no actual meat, and the waitstaff looked disparagingly at us when we asked for rice? Or maybe he’s scared of the little fishes you usually get in your banchan? I actually think of the Korean vs Japanese food divide as one of those key ones, like Italian vs French, that defines what kind of food lover you are. Everyone likes Japanese food; refined, complex, sophisticated, I get it. But I (often) find Japanese food boring and bland whereas Korean food is rustic, spicy, meaty. Mr Lemur often drags me to Japanese restaurants and I’ve learned to appreciate some aspects of that cuisine, but I rarely manage to get turnabout. It’s got to the point where one of the Crocodiles and I have been threatening to ‘cheat’ on our spouses by going off together for a lunchtime Korean food orgy. Secret Soho kimchee assignations! But this week I somehow talked Mr Lemur into lunch at Binari, the new Korean place in Brighton. Read the rest of this entry »

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Young radish leaves kimchi casserole

I’m not a fan of “quick ‘n easy” cooking. Don’t get me wrong: I’m love cooking that is quick and cooking that is easy, but just not the genre of food writing that sees cooking as something to be got over with. But we all have busy weeks and I stupidly picked one to start a blog. In my other life, I had a huge deadline this week and I’ve been working flat out, getting increasingly panicked about missing The Deadline. So, what to eat when you feel guilty taking even a couple of hours away from work? I discovered the answer in a shortcut product that’s about as far as you can get from Sandra Lee: the wonderful world of kimchi. Not only is it insanely moreish right out of the package, kimchi forms a simple basis for a reassuring winter casserole. For this recipe, I like to use yeolmu (young radish leaves) kimchi, but you could use cabbage instead.

I don’t know that much about Korean food – it’s an area I want to explore more. I enjoy eating it in restaurants, but so much of the appeal is in the panchan (the little bowls of vegetables and fish that are served with meals) that it seems ambitious for the home cook. So, my Korean casserole isn’t terribly authentic. It’s more a variation on ingredients and flavours I’ve encountered in homestyle Korean joints in New York.  It is, however, incredibly easy to make and the combination of sweet, salty and spicy is perfect therapy for the stress-case.

Kimchee and beef casserole

  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a knob of ginger, julienned
  • 500g of ground beef
  • 4 scallions / spring onions, in longish slices
  • some shichimi togarashi (Japanese spice mixture)
  • 1 package yeolmu kimchi
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, thickly sliced

In a heavy, lidded pot over a medium heat, fry the garlic and ginger in a little oil till just colouring. Add the beef and stir around until browned. Shake in a goodly amount of the shichimi togarashi and throw the scallions on top. Sauté for another minute or two till nothing looks raw. Now mix in the kimchi.

Next, arrange the sweet potato slices on top of the mixture in a pleasing pattern. (This is an important part of the stress relief. Look, something you can control!) In a measuring cup, mix the two types of soy sauce with water to take the total to about 1/3 cup. Pour over the potatoes. You should have enough liquid that if you push a potato slice down firmly, it is covered, but not enough that the whole affair is submerged.

Now, bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes. Serve with rice.

PS:  I know the pics aren’t great quality. I’m planning to invest in a better camera, but baby steps…

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