Courgette (zucchini) soup

Courgette/Zucchini Soup

The British are famously a nation of gardeners. Where else do you have a reality show on TV pitting amateur gardeners against each other?! Or, rather, allotment-holders. Allotments are small parcels of land rented out by the local government to those with the itch to garden but without one. This is apparently a competitive business with demand far exceeding supply. I learned all this from my friend Man-Yee who started an allotment this past year and, after months of toiling, has been rewarded by an abundance of fresh veg and fruit. Or, as she put it, by drowning in a sea of courgettes (zucchini, as they’re known on the other side of the Pond)!

Pasta with kale pesto

Pasta with kale pesto

Kale must be one of the most versatile vegetable that I know of, and certainly the most commonly featured on this blog. I’ve used it in everything from Korean-influenced tteokbokki to Mediterranean-style fritters. But pesto? It just didn’t seem right and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high hopes. But from the moment I spied this recipe in a recent issue of Food and Wine Magazine I just knew I had to try it. The verdict? Lets just say I may never make ‘regular’ basil pesto again! It is that tasty. Best of all, unlike basil, which bruises easily and turns an unattractive brown color, kale yields a vibrant and beautiful green pesto with a much longer shelf life. The original recipe calls for pecorino cheese, which I omitted and didn’t miss at all, and Aleppo pepper, for which I subbed plain old crushed red chile.

Doenjang jjigae: Korean stew with fermented soy bean paste and seafood

Doenjang jjigae

There are some people who can make even cell phone pictures look good. I, alas, am not one of them as the photo above of doenjang jjigae, one of the most popular comfort foods in Korea, testifies. But I assure you it tastes far better than it looks and, as a bonus, it is so easy that it practically cooks itself!

Korean-style tofu and radish simmered in a spicy sauce (dubumujorim)

Korean tofu and radish

I imagine there was much rejoicing in Seoul last year at reports that South Korean GDP per head, measured at PPP, would soon catch up with Japan’s, long considered the benchmark against which all Asian countries measure themselves. But, currently on a visit to Seoul, it occurred to me that there’s a much more concrete measure of South Korea’s ascendancy than GDP: the density of convenience stores. Anyone who has visited Japan will know what I’m talking about. You rarely have to walk more than half a block before running into one – often more! – of its famed konbini selling everything from oden to underwear. Well, South Korea certainly seems to have caught up in this regard. Convenience stores in Seoul seem now about as common as in Tokyo. And if they don’t yet match Japanese konbini in their range, I love the idea of being able to pick up a small packet of kimchi or a bulgogi hotdog on the way home!

Grilled asparagus with salsa Romesco

Salsa Romesco

I’ll be honest: the focus of this post is the Romesco sauce. Sure, asparagus, until recently in season, tastes lovely with it. But, really, anything you can dip in the sauce works (carrot sticks, celery, chips, fingers … – are all good!). Or try it with grilled fish. Granted, this isn’t the simplest dip in the world. But it has very quickly become my favorite and the (minor) extra effort of roasting the ingredients is absolutely worth it. The recipe is, with very minor adjustments to the proportion of ingredients, from My Basque Cuisine, a fantastic cookbook by Ash Mair that covers all the Spanish classics in an accessible manner.