My version of my mum’s very easy kimchi

a hand mixing cut cabbage leaves with kimchi paste

Here is a very easy kimchi recipe for you. It is my mum’s mak-kimchi 막김치 or 맛김치 recipe, made even easier by me. Mak-kimchi is the one where the cabbage is all cut up, rather than quartered, which makes it quicker to make and serve up. The leaves are cut into bite-sized pieces. This means that you don’t have to cut them when you serve it, which you do with a traditional kimchi recipe where the cabbage is quartered and fermented thus.

In Korea it is made with Korean cabbage, baechu. I only discovered recently that it is slightly different from Chinese leaves or Napa cabbage, which is what my mum uses and most kimchi recipes outside of Korea use. In the UK, it’s called Chinese leaves; in the US it is called Napa cabbage. I haven’t provided an exact quantity of cabbage in grams as in the winter, the Chinese leaves can be so skinny that I need 3, but in the summer they are so big and I use 2.

We grew up in the North East of Scotland, where there wasn’t a big Korean community. There weren’t any Korean food shops like you got in New Malden (London) then, and the Chinese supermarket hardly, if at all, stocked Korean ingredients. So my mum learned to adapt her recipe to supplement the carefully hoarded essential Korean ingredient – the gochugaru, the Korean red chilli pepper flakes – with the ingredients that were readily available to her. This is all by way of an explanation of why this particular recipe is perhaps a bit different from the others that you’ll see on the internet.

gochagaru
An example of some gochugaru powder that I bought in the UK

By the way, gochugaru is an essential ingredient. The Korean red chilli pepper flakes have a particular flavour, that you won’t get from another chilli substitute. People have tried to substitute it with the following and then reported back to me that it didn’t taste right (well of course – you missed out an essential ingredient!):

  • chilli flakes
  • chilli powder
  • cayenne powder
  • red chillies
  • fresh birds eye chillies
  • paprika

Learn from their mistakes, go and buy some. Korean food has gained in popularity since I was a child, and in the UK, gochugaru is readily available in many Chinese or Korean food stores. I’ve even spotted it in some of the larger supermarkets.

This version is not particularly spicy. You can adjust the spice levels if you desire by adding in more tablespoons of gochugaru. There was also a period of time when my mum had to cut out all spicy food from her diet, and as she was the main chef in the home, meant that we did too. However, she continued making kimchi and the recipe evolved around her dietary requirements.

*My recipe varies from my mum’s a little (or a lot, depending on how important you think the changes are). Firstly, in our method of cutting up the cabbage. She separates out each leaf of cabbage, halves it and then cuts it into pieces. I halve the whole cabbage lengthways, then cut again lengthways so that it is quartered. Then I cut them into bite-sized pieces – about 2.5-3cm wide. I think that my way is quicker; my mum is shocked by it. I also don’t use shrimp paste, or fresh shrimps when I make it simply because I can’t be bothered to and I stick to fish sauce for ease. However, my mum does because it adds a deeper flavour to it. Maangchi’s Easy kimchi recipe and Korean bapsang Easy kimchi recipe, the other two recipes that I refer to from time to time, include shrimp. Maybe one day, I will do the same.

Equipment you will need:

  • A large sharp knife and chopping board
  • A blender or food processor. A hand blender also works. If you don’t have any of these then you’ll need a vegetable grater.
  • 1-2 large bowls, like a washing up bowl.
  • 1 large colander
  • Saucepan and spatula
  • Storage: I store the kimchi in various former large (500-700g) pickle/beetroot jars. Prepare about 5, depending on their size.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Napa cabbage or Chinese leaves, depending on their size. Normally I use 2 medium-large ones.
  • lots of table salt
  • 1 medium white/brown onion, peeled
  • 1 ripe pear
  • 10cm ginger, peeled
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 red peppers, depending on the quantity of Chinese leaves
  • 5 spring onions
  • 1-2tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp gochugaru – the Korean red chilli pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp glutinous rice powder, sometimes called sweet rice powder (GF people – this doesn’t contain any gluten but it is sticky)
  • 5 tbsp or 75ml of cold water

Method – Stage 1: prepare and salt the cabbage. This is an important step in cleaning and killing any bad bacteria.

  1. To clean the cabbage, remove any of the outer leaves that have discoloured too much or too bruised. Cut the cabbage into bite-sized pieces using either my mum’s way or my way* and put into a large bowl/basin. Fill the bowl with water to clean the leaves. Drain in the colander. You will probably have to do this in stages due to the quantity of the leaves.
  2. In a separate bowl, put one layer of cabbage in, then generously sprinkle salt over it. Next put another layer of cabbage over that first layer and generously sprinkle salt over it. Repeat with all the cabbage.
  3. Leave for about 2-5 hours, turning every 30-60mins to salt evenly, so that the salt draws out the moisture out of the cabbage. In my experience, the length of time it takes varies depending on the quantity and the weather. It is faster in warmer weather. Do not, and I repeat DO NOT, leave the cabbage to salt overnight. It will make the overall flavour of the leaves a bit too salty.
  4. You will know when it is ready when the white sections of the cabbage are more translucent, bend easily and don’t snap. The cabbage will have reduced by about half too. When ready, drain the water and rinse in clean water 2-3 times to remove the salt. Drain and set aside.
Halfway there – it’s not bendy and translucent enough yet
When it is ready, it will bend easily and be more translucent.

Stage 2: make the rice paste. Do this while the cabbage is salting to give it time to cool. This is optional, but does add make the fermentation process quicker and helps the cabbage to absorb the kimchi paste better.

  1. In a small saucepan dissolve 1 tbsp of glutinous rice flour into 75ml of cold water. Heat it on a medium heat, stirring, until your spatula leaves a line through it. Leave it aside to cool.
The glutinous rice paste

Stage 3: prepare the kimchi paste

  1. Wash and prepare your vegetables (apart from the spring onions – you’ll use them later) and pear to put into the blender/food processor. Peel and cut the onion into quarters, cut the pear into 3 cm chunks (skin on), cut the ginger and red peppers into 3 cm chunks, and pop in the peeled garlic cloves. Whizz it up so that it has all blended.

If you don’t have a blender or food processor then use a grater to mince the garlic, ginger, pear, onion and red pepper into a large bowl. The coarse side of a box grater may work or I’ve used one of the Korean vegetable graters that I listed under equipment.

  1. Mix in the gochugaru, the rice paste and 1 tbsp of fish sauce and give it another whizz in the blender.
  2. Wash and clean the spring onions. We use be using the whole spring onion. I notice that in the UK only the white part gets used, which makes me 😢. Chop the bottom off, trim the top, then slice the spring onions diagonally in 2-3cm strips.

Stage 4: mix them all together

  1. Now thoroughly mix the cabbage with the kimchi paste. Taste and if you think that it should be a bit saltier, add one more tablespoon of fish sauce. Taste again and if you think it needs a bit more then add a bit more. Remember though, you can always add salt but you can’t take it away.

Stage 5: store, ferment and serve

  1. Then it’s time to store it in cleaned jars. Leave a bit of space at the top so that any kimchi juices can bubble up during the fermentation process. I leave it out on a kitchen countertop for 1 day and then store it in the fridge. From experience, it is a good idea to put it on something, such as a plastic container in case any juices spill out.
  2. To serve and eat – it is best to leave it to ferment for a couple of days. When you go to serve some up, then turn it around a bit in the jar and get the stuff that isn’t at the top. You can also eat it immediately on the very day that you made it, if you want to. If you do, I recommend serving it like a salad drizzled with some sesame seed oil and sprinkled with some toasted sesame seeds over it.
Freshly made kimchi in their jars ready for fermenting

Enjoy and do let me know how you get on 😊.

Zingy Lemon and Ginger Cheesecake

lemon and ginger cheesecake 1

So, when you hold
the hemisphere
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
you spill
a universe of gold,
a yellow goblet
of miracles,

Pablo Neruda – Ode to the Lemon

I love lemons. My friends will testify to my love affair with lemons. ‘A yellow goblet of miracles’ beautifully describes my imaginations of what I could create with them. I particularly love that zing that lemons add when I use it in baking.

My timing of trying out this recipe was a bit silly really. It was three days before the removal men were coming. My two tubs of soft cheese in my fridge were almost at their expiry date, the sun was out and I needed an excuse to do something other than pack boxes! This lemon and ginger cheesecake seemed like the perfect summer dessert.

the inspiration for lemon and ginger cheesecake

I’ve since made two versions of this cheesecake. Version One lacked the lemony zing. It may appeal to the finer palette; I love robust flavours. So, I cheated the second time and added lemon curd to the mixture, which brought out the lemon and complemented the ginger perfectly.

Lemon and Ginger Cheesecake adapted from the Good Food Channel

Ingredients and Method

Ideally use a 25cm springform cake tin and double wrap the outside of it with foil. This is to protect the cheesecake when baking it in a water-bath. I didn’t have a big enough cake tin at the time of baking the cheesecakes. Instead, I made a 20cm and 10 mini cheesecakes. Very cute!

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F

lemon and ginger mini cheesecakes

…For the biscuit base

225g digestive biscuits (or if you really like ginger, then substitute it all or partly with ginger biscuits)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp caster sugar
75g unsalted butter, melted

  1. Pulse the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs, or bash them up in a bag with a rolling pin. Whichever method suits your mood.
  2. Add the ground ginger, caster sugar and the melted butter and mix it all up. I’ve already reduced the amount of butter from the recipe so that there is enough butter for the biscuit base to stick together.
  3. Transfer the biscuit mixture to the cake tin and press it down firmly. If you would also like to make mini ones too, then use a tablespoon of biscuit mixture per cupcake case. I discovered that my mini-tart shaper is perfect for pressing down the biscuit base.

…For the filling
570g cream cheese
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
4 large eggs, beaten
grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons
380ml sour cream
2 tbsp lemon curd, beaten so that it’s a little bit runny, optional but highly recommendable

  1. Beat the cream cheese and the caster sugar together until smooth in a big bowl.
  2. Mix in the cornflour.
  3. Slowly mix the eggs into the mixture, one at a time, so that they are thoroughly mixed in. Don’t worry that the mixture always looks a wee bit peculiar at this stage.
  4. Pour in the sour cream and add the lemon zest. Gently mix them into the mixture.
  5. Lemony zing lovers could also add the lemon curd into the mixture at this stage. I put blobs of it on top of the mixture once I had poured the filling into the cake tin. Then I worried that the lemon curd would burn in the oven if it was left on top, so I took a metal chopstick and mixed the lemon curd into the mixture. I’ve since thought about putting 3/4 filling in, putting in a layer of lemon curd, then topping it with cheesecake filling. Essentially you can do whatever you like with it, and I’d really love to hear what worked for you.
  6. For the mini cheesecake fans – I used 2 teaspoons of the filling for each case.
  7. Pop it into the oven for about 45 minutes. I think that I baked the mini cheesecakes for 20 minutes. Bake until the middle of the cheesecake is just set. I test it by gently resting my finger on it and the cheesecake is ready when there is no (or barely any) mixture sticking to it.

Top Tip! Cheescakes are best when baked in a moist oven. To achieve this, you can bake the cheesecake in a water-bath by placing the cake tin in a roasting tin and filling the roasting tin with enough hot water so that it reaches about half way up the cake tin. Alternatively you can place a small oven-proof bowl full of hot water on the bottom level of the oven. I’ve used both methods and haven’t noticed any difference to the texture of the cheesecakes. But perhaps a more experienced cheesecake baker could enlighten me?

…Meanwhile, start the topping
250ml sour cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
80g stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon mixed with 1/2 tbsp of sugar

  1. Mix the sour cream and the caster sugar together.
  2. Take the cheesecake out of the oven when it’s ready and pour the topping on, arrange the stem ginger on top. The mini cheesecakes appreciate a thin layer of sour cream topping.
  3. Pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, so that the sour cream topping can set.
  4. When it comes out, immediately run a knife round the edge of the cheesecake. This will help stop the cheesecake from cracking. Also, helpful for when taking the cheesecake out of the tin when serving it up.
  5. Let the cheesecake cool down for about an hour before popping it into the fridge overnight.
  6. Sprinkle the sugary lemon zest on top before serving.

Verdict – The combination of lemony zingyness with gingery warmth produces lots of ‘Mmmmms’. It does take some effort but it is a really simple summery dessert to make that is a crowd-pleaser. I’m pleased to say that my friend’s children ate some and then asked for seconds. Winner! The cheesecake is best eaten a day or two after it is made so that it stays soft. But I always seem to make too much cheesecake in one go, so I’d appreciate any tips on freezing it.

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