Three bowls to warm your soul

In autumn, life takes on a slower pace. Leaves begin to meander from the trees; weekends are more rambles and roasts than festivals and fizz; and food is all about those warm, wafting flavours that smell as good as they taste.

And the best vessel to eat from? A large, deep bowl that you can cup your hands around while you curl up in your favourite armchair. It’s certainly a philosophy that Pippa Middlehurst gets around in her new book, Bowls & Broths. The book is a collection of warming, Asian-inspired dishes, and here, she shares three of its flavoursome, bowl-based recipes.

So, take your pick: will it be spicy noodles topped with a soy-soaked egg, meltingly soft miso chicken and miso rice, or crisp and tender mapo tofu dumplings? We’re hungry just thinking about them…

Tantanmen

“Tantanmen is the Japanese riff on the Sichuanese dish dan dan noodles. The components are ultimately quite similar, with a few additions and tweaks. If you want to make this vegan, simply stick to vegetable broth, replace the minced (ground) meat with soya and leave out the eggs.”

INGREDIENTS
Serves 2

For the meat sauce:
1 tbsp neutral oil
200g minced beef (>15% fat) or 100g each of minced beef and pork
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce
½ tsp dark soy sauce
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

To season the bowls:
¼ tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns, sieved (strained)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
½ tsp light (soft) brown sugar
2 tsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar
4 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste
2 tbsp Sichuan chilli oil (or to taste)

To serve:
2 pak choi (bok choy), leaves separated
200g fresh ramen noodles or 100g dried ramen noodles
1 ramen egg (recipe below)
600ml chicken or veg broth 
1 spring onion, finely sliced

METHOD

  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil.
  2. Blanch the pak choi (bok choy) for 30 seconds, scoop out, then set aside. Cook the noodles in the same water until al dente according to the instructions on page 43 or on the packet. Drain, and then rinse in plenty of cold water to stop them from sticking together. Set aside.
  3. To make the sauce, heat the neutral oil in a heavy-based frying pan (skillet) or wok over a high heat. Add the minced (ground) meat and let it caramelize for at least 1 minute, without stirring. Stir, then continue to cook
  4. for 5–6 minutes until browned all over. Add the Chinese five spice and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the rice wine, stir again, then add the sweet bean sauce or hoisin, dark soy sauce and black pepper. Mix well, turn down the heat and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the ramen egg to a mug of boiling water to gently reheat. Heat the broth until steaming.
  6. To assemble, divide all the bowl seasonings between two serving bowls.
  7. Pour in the hot broth and mix well to combine. At the last moment, add the noodles, top with meat sauce, half a ramen egg each, sliced spring onions (scallions) and the blanched pak choi (bok choy).

Ramen Eggs

INGREDIENTS
Makes 6 eggs 
6 medium eggs
4 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp mirin
250ml dashi stock (made from powder) or water (cold)

  1. Bring a pan of water to a rapid boil. Lower the eggs gently into the water and cook for exactly 6 minutes. Remove from the water and run under very cold water for 3–4 minutes or plunge into a bowl of water and ice cubes. When completely cool, peel the eggs.
  2. Combine the soy, mirin and dashi. Submerge the eggs in the liquid and cover with baking paper. Alternatively, place the eggs in a sealable container or resealable plastic bag filled with the liquid. Leave in the fridge overnight to chill and marinate before eating. Will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Miso Chicken Claypot Rice

“Claypot rice is the ultimate one-pot meal. There’s something about the smell of the claypot that adds to the comforting qualities of this dish. If you don’t have a claypot, a Dutch oven or cast-iron pot will do. A small rice cooker will also do the trick – layer the rice and toppings as below and set to ‘cook’. Just make sure the chicken is cooked through before serving. Or, if you’d like to make this vegan, replace the chicken with five spice firm tofu, and the oyster sauce with vegetarian stir fry sauce.”

INGREDIENTS
Serves 2
1 small handful of dried black fungus mushrooms (optional)
240g jasmine rice
240ml water
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp white miso
½ tsp sea salt (any kind)
1 tsp light (soft) brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 pinch of ground white pepper
2 skin-on, boneless chicken thighs, sliced into 1cm slices
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes, finely sliced
2½cm ginger, sliced into thin rounds
4 spring onions, white parts kept whole, green parts finely sliced

METHOD

  1. Place the claypot in a sink and cover entirely with cold water. Let it soak while you prepare the ingredients.
  2. Soak the black fungus for 15 minutes in boiling water. Strain, then roughly chop the mushrooms.
  3. Rinse the rice thoroughly in a sieve (strainer) until the water runs clear. Add to a 22cm claypot with the water. Let this soak at room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. Mix the light soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, white miso, salt, light (soft) brown sugar, sesame oil and ground white pepper. Place the chicken thighs in the marinade with the shiitake mushrooms and black fungus (if using).
  5. Nestle the ginger and spring onion (scallion) whites into the rice and water. Layer the chicken thigh and mushroom mixture over the top, including all of the marinade. Don’t mix.
  6. Put a lid on the claypot and set it over a medium-high heat and bring to a simmer – steam will begin to escape from the hole in the lid of the claypot.
  7. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 12 minutes or until all the moisture has absorbed and the rice is cooked. The bottom of the rice should be nice and crispy. Serve with sliced spring onion greens.

Mapo Tofu Dumplings 

“Mapo tofu is one of my all-time favourite Sichuan dishes – it’s a moreish combination of firm silken tofu and minced pork in a rich red sauce. The sauce is a result of the deeply umami and spicy doubanjiang (fermented broad bean and chilli paste), which carries the characteristic aromatic and spicy flavours of Sichuanese cuisine.”

INGREDIENTS
Makes 24-30 dumplings (serves 4)
120g minced pork (>20% fat)
1 garlic clove, grated
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp doubanjiang
1 tbsp Lao Gan Ma Crispy Chilli Oil or similar
1 tbsp light (soft) brown sugar
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp chopped pickled jalapeños
1 tbsp pickled jalapeño juice
2 tbsp water
½  tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns, sieved
200g firm silken tofu
24–30 dumpling wrappers or 450g frozen dumpling wrappers

To season the bowls:
4 tbsp Sichuan chilli oil
4 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar
4 tbsp light soy sauce
1 small handful of chives, finely sliced
4 tsp chopped pickled jalapeños (with juice)

METHOD

  1. Beat the pork with the garlic, spring onions (scallions), doubanjiang, chilli oil, light (soft) brown sugar, Shaoxing rice wine, sesame oil, light soy sauce, chopped pickled jalapeños, pickle juice and water, until it resembles a sticky paste. Fold in the ground Sichuan peppercorns.
  2. Chop the tofu into 5mm cubes and fold these into the pork mixture very gently. They may crumble a little, but you’re aiming to have chunks of tofu running through the mixture.
  3. Take a dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand and place 1 tsp of pork filling in the centre. Bring the edges of the wrapper together and gently press the dough to seal the dumpling. You can add some pleats if you want to, but this isn’t necessary. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.
  4. Place the dumplings in a steamer basket lined with baking paper (or a couple of cabbage leaves) at least 1cm apart. Set over a pan of boiling water and steam for 8–10 minutes. You may have to do this in batches.
  5. To assemble, season each serving bowl with 1 tbsp Sichuan chilli oil, 1 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar, 1 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp chives, 1 tsp pickled jalapeños and mix to combine. Add six dumplings to each bowl and toss to coat.

Bowls & Broths by Pippa Middlehurst (Quadrille, £16.99) is out now. Photography: India Hobson & Magnus Edmondsen

Words by Georgie Young & Kim Wallace