Two recipes for neglected ingredients by @newgatestudio
(Don’t worry, there hasn’t been a 1.1 yet, this is just me making it easier for me to compile later)
I think I first came across @newgatestudio, the Instagram account and supperclub of Coco Kwok, around 3-4 years ago and was immediately hooked. It’s difficult to describe what pulled me in without it sounding like a backhanded compliment, but I was fascinated as to how this person could clearly cook but made no attempt to make things pretty or plate things in a way that a chef normally would. It was ugly delicious before Ugly Delicious. The way Coco cooks seems to me based on a mode of survival that everyone in Europe knew until recently, and is still remembered in certain countries. Her recipes and her way of working would be understood to any home cook in any country 150 years ago; I love how each meal is a reiteration of the last, that one day the monkfish from the night before would reappear in a sauce made from its liver, that the cooking water from boiling turnips would be repurposed the next day in a cold congee swaddling homemade duck ham. It reminds me of those infinite pot-au-feu that every household and great restaurant in France used to keep going for years, where every time you ate from it there would be a small amount of the very first meal hidden within its atoms. She uses untrendy ingredients (turnips, intestine, herring roe, hairy melon, I noticed one time an accompaniment was simply listed ‘brain juice’), she pickles, salts, makes jellies, congees, uses flavoured creams. She isn’t afraid to combine meat and fish - seaweed and pork broth with mussel soaked bread, squid stuffed with veal, trotter braised octopus.
Coco was born in Guangzhou in the south of China, one of the world’s great food cities, and the way she cooks is very much informed by her time there although she says her food now is “neither east nor west”. She calls them “odd little creations”. She never went to cooking school and feels that she communicates with her food better than she does with words, although I love how these recipes have been laid out and the language she uses to talk about how she cooks. She has decided to share two recipes that use ugly ingredients she has seen left out at supermarkets while people hoard other more handsome items. I can’t think of a better way to start this newsletter off, and I hope that one day I get the chance to try her food at her table.
two recipes for neglected ingredients by @newgatestudio
In the current climate, I still find it hard to quit my habit of daily grocery shopping. Walking through all the empty shelves inside Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, I found that carrots and mushrooms seem to be left behind in the madness of stocking up. So today, I’ve put them on my pickup takeaway menu. This is not a dish that tries to make vegetables taste better. They are always great. There are a couple of ingredients that are maybe not easy to get, so I have a second version which exchanges them with more convenient ones (which you can find in brackets). I never measure while I’m cooking, I guess I have to put in “season to taste”.
Shiitake and carrot cooked lotus root.
Shiitake mushrooms (or chestnut or white cap mushrooms), carrots, lotus root (or less starchy potatoes), oyster sauce (or soy sauce), sugar (or mirin)
The ideal ratio for the main ingredients are 1:1:1
Slice the carrots and lotus root thinly (which means a short cooking time, but more importantly you will be able to enjoy all of them in one mouthful). Boil the lotus root first with water and cover, halfway through you can toss in the carrots. I put the carrots in 5 minutes in and cooked for 5 minutes more. When they are tender, take them out into a big bowl. Keep the remaining water and in just 30 secs (more or less) cook the mushrooms (top up with water if there is none left). Break them with your hands into small pieces, or chop them, whatever. Spoon them out, toss into the small bowl. Keep the water.
Now, it would be best if you have oyster sauce (the "Chinese/Japanese produce" shelves are almost untouched at my local supermarket). If not, soya sauce will be fine too.
Boil 1.5 teaspoons-ish of oyster sauce in the water that you have cooked all the ingredients in, and when it’s slightly bubbly, put in a little sugar or mirin. This is the sauce, pour it into the bowl and mix through well.
This is a dish that you can empty over rice, and is also perfect to scramble with some noodles. If you keep it cold, squeeze some lemon juice in. Then it becomes perfect company for cold beer. Or salad, or on to buttered toast wouldn't hurt. The carrots are ever so sweet after some heat treatment and a savoury sauce will elevate it. The mushrooms are just absurdly flavourful. If you want it richer, just add some pork mince, or stir fry in some pork belly slices. If you have any leftover (as if), they can be used as filling for dumplings, or even folded into the morning omelettes.
Turnips, and radishes are sitting almost untouched but they have piqued my appetite recently. Because of the lockdown/stay at home situation, my body starts to feel tired from not moving or doing enough. Hot, rich food becomes less attractive despite the weather still being chilly. So here is a little idea that I found salivating.
Two adult fists of turnip (or radishes) orange juice (or mandarins, clementine, lemon), butter, soy sauce, (salt, fish sauce). Chives.
Chop the turnips into quarters, Boil in water until the centre is soft. Then you can carry on boiling a bit more, up to how soft you want. I do it until a spoon can cut through. Steaming them is actually the best way for me, because it will keep the original peppery note of this root vegetable which I really enjoy. But maybe not many people will have a steamer.
(If you use radishes, keep them whole )
Take them out once cooked. Melt butter in a small pan/pot, whatever suits you to work with. Throw in the finely chopped chives, pour in the orange juice (about half an orange’s worth) and two teaspoons of soy sauce. As it starts to bubble a little, take off the heat. And pour over the turnips.
I recommend being slightly heavy handed with all the seasoning, so you can enjoy it like a cake with creme fraiche (or sour cream). Also this way is good: leave out the butter but put everything else on to the cooked turnips and leave in the fridge overnight or until it’s cold. Then Have it.
Keeping cooking is the only thing right now that's achievable and gives me solidity. It's a cycle; the more I cook the bigger this world is, and I want to know more and keep expanding into the unknown past as well as the unknown future. So I think, like many others who have a thing with food or cooking, just keep going.
If you are in the Islington area, Coco is doing takeaway boxes from her home in lieu of her supperclub. To buy from her, please message her on Instagram.
The beautiful turnip image is by Reena Makwana
Coco kindly donated her recipes to Vittles