I've finally turned in the manuscript for my next book! Until the SEND button is clicked, there's a lot of excitement and adrenaline, and then immediately, the exhaustion sinks in. I fed the pets, walked the dog, and went straight to bed (a little after lunchtime). All that's left are multiple rounds of editing and photography, but for now, I'm going to take a small break from bookwork and avoid thinking about it. (I also type in the wrong year for my manuscript).
By nature, I'm a habitual creature. I like daily rituals. They give me a sense of comfort; deviations to this regular formula are welcome but with a note of caution. For example, my favorite breakfast sandwich is lightly buttered slices of sourdough, crumbled hard-boiled eggs, and a heaping spoonful of harissa. Sometimes the harissa is swapped out by a chilli crisp (Lao Gan Ma, obviously!)
Once a month without fail, I get an order of the dan dan noodles from Silverlake's Pine and Crane restaurant. It's heavenly satisfying with lots of crunchy peanuts and thin cucumber matchsticks. Their pan-fried pork buns and beef rolls are equally spectacular; the seared crust on those bread is pure gold. If you make a trip, these are the three dishes that should be on your order.
Kimchi Lentil Soup
There were many requests for winter soups, especially ones with heartier textures, so this week, I've got one of my favorite winter soups for you, and it uses kimchi and dashi as a quick way to build the flavor. Besides lentils, you can use white beans like cannellini and fold in 1/2 cup of cooked pearl barley. It's satisfying and doesn't need a lot of work.
The Cook's Notes
Use a good quality kimchi that you love, I like Mother In Law’s. When you pull the kimchi out of the jar, use the juices from the jar too. Besides the spices and flavors, the lactic acid in the kimchi will help add sourness to your soup.
How to cook black lentils: Lentils usually double in size after cooking, so use cook ½ cup dried lentils in 3 cups water and 1 tsp fine sea salt. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils turn tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and discard the liquid and use the lentils in the soup. I prefer black lentils here because they hold their texture, red and green fall apart.
Hondashi is a good staple to keep in the pantry. It’s basically a concentrated form of stock powder with all the umami in powder form. It's made from bonito (in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t smell or taste fishy and has a very robust umami flavor that I absolutely adore) and other ingredients that intensify the umami experience. Dashi stock is also a great alternative - use 4 cups /960ml of dashi stock and skip the water in the instructions. A vegetarian alternative is dashi made from kombu (dried kelp) and dried shiitake mushrooms. Red miso paste is another vegetarian good alternative to use here, add 1 Tbsp in place of dashi.
You can skip the hardboiled eggs or double the quantity in the recipe. I prefer half an egg per person, but you can also count a whole egg per person.
Makes 4 servings
2 Tbsp sesame or grapeseed oil
1 small onion/150g, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced/ g
6 garlic cloves, grated or thinly sliced
1 cup/224g chopped kimchi, chopped
1 tsp dashi or hondashi
1 cup/200g cooked black lentils
4 cups/960ml water
Fine sea salt
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise (See The Cook’s Notes)
2 scallions, trimmed, both white and green parts thinly sliced
Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium Dutch oven or saucepan. Add and sauté the onions until they turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the kimchi with all its juices, hondashi, lentils, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Taste and season with salt; you shouldn’t need to. Remove from the heat. Serve hot or warm; garnish each bowl with half a boiled egg and the scallions.
What I'm loving this week:
I'm late to it, but I just finished the first season of For All Mankind on Apple TV and absolutely loved it. Dorie's latest newsletter on pastries in Paris really makes me want to book the next flight out (I'm sure you'll feel the same way after reading it).
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