I love the rare occasions when I get to make a meal just for myself. It's an opportunity to eat what I like without having to make a balanced meal (like my occasional dinners of charcuterie and full-fat, creamy cheese); indulge my love for unpopular cuts of meat (especially innards); and experiment with ideas for dishes that sound good in my head but which aren't yet ready to make their debut in front of others. Every now and then, though, I just want comfort food that is easy and delicious, and that's when I make dishes such as these two.
Four egg pasta (pictured)
The 'four eggs' in this dish are mentaiko (spicy cod roe), Chinese toasted shrimp roe, tobiko (flying fish roe) and chicken eggs prepared in the onsen style, also known as 63-degree egg.
You can buy onsen eggs from Japanese supermarkets, or make your own. It's not difficult but it takes a little practice to get the timing right for the pan you use. The eggs need room to 'swim', but if the pan is too large, they might get overcooked. I usually make four onsen eggs at once. You won't need all four but it's best to have spares in case the timing isn't quite right. (The leftovers will keep in the fridge for at least a week.)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
50 grams angel hair pasta
20 grams unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
About 50ml cream
About 2 tsp Kewpie (Japanese mayonnaise)
1 mentaiko sac
About 1/4 tsp toasted shrimp roe, plus extra for sprinkling
1 heaped tablespoon tobiko
Finely shredded nori
To make the onsen eggs, put the room-temperature eggs in a saucepan that fits them in one layer with a little room to spare. Add tepid water to cover them by 2.5cm. Put the pan over a medium flame and bring to a simmer, then stir in enough cold water to bring the temperature down to 63 degrees Celsius (you'll need an instant-read thermometer). Reduce the flame to low and keep the water temperature at 63 degrees for 30 minutes, adding more cold water if it gets too hot and raising the heat slightly if it's too cold. Remove the eggs from the heat. Carefully crack off the large end of one egg, holding it over a dish. Use a spoon to scoop the white and yolk from the shell - it should have a barely set white and soft, runny yolk. If it's too soft, cook the remaining eggs in 63 degree water for another five to 10 minutes, depending on how soft the first egg was. When the eggs are just right, drain the water and rinse the eggs under cold water to stop them cooking further. Leave them in their shells.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente, timing it so it's ready when the sauce is ready.
Slit open the mentaiko sac with a sharp knife, scrape the contents into a small bowl and mix with the cream and Japanese mayonnaise. Heat the butter in a skillet, add the shallot and cook until soft. Turn off the flame. When the pasta is al dente, scoop about 100ml of pasta water from the pot, then drain the pasta (but don't rinse it) and add it to the skillet. Pour about 50ml of the pasta water into the bowl containing the mentaiko and cream and stir to combine, then pour this over the pasta and quickly mix. The ingredients should coat the pasta lightly but evenly; if it seems too dry, stir in more pasta water or cream. Add the shrimp roe and tobiko and mix gently, then transfer to a shallow bowl and create a small crater in the centre of the pasta. Crack one of the onsen eggs into the crater and top with a little shrimp roe. Sprinkle a little shrimp roe and some shredded nori around the plate and serve. Mix the onsen egg into the pasta before eating it.
Kimchi fried rice
Fried rice should be made with cold, leftover rice. Short-grain or long-grain rice can be used in this recipe.
150 grams thinly sliced pork, beef or chicken
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Beijing spring onion or negi (Japanese leek)
About 30ml cooking oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
A few slices of onion, chopped
Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru), to taste
About 75 grams cabbage kimchi, drained (save the liquid) and chopped
About 200 grams chilled cooked rice
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 large egg
Put the meat into a small bowl, add the soy sauce and mix. Cut the spring onion or leek in half lengthwise and rinse it well, then cut on the diagonal into 2cm-wide pieces. Rub the rice between the palms of your hands (wet them slightly so the rice doesn't stick) to break up any lumps.
Heat the wok over a medium-high flame until hot then add 30ml of oil and heat. Add the garlic, onion and spring onion or negi and cook until the vegetables are wilted. Add the meat and sprinkle lightly with gochugaru. Cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is lightly seared. Add the kimchi and some of the kimchi liquid and mix, then add the rice and a sprinkling of salt. Com- bine thoroughly then turn the heat to high, spread the rice out in the wok and cook without stirring so the rice develops a brown crust in spots. Stir the ingredients again and taste for seasonings. In a lightly oiled small skillet, cook the egg sunny-side up. Put the rice into a large bowl, add the egg and serve immediately.
Styling Nellie Ming Lee