I founded Bad Form, a literary review by Black, Asian, and racialised community writers, in response to the horrifying statistic that in 2016, less than 100 books by British “BAME” authors were published out of the hundreds of thousands released. If mainstream publishers wouldn’t platform our writing, then, I thought, we would do it ourselves. The Food Issue is our sixth, made up of essays, short stories, and poems – and, arguably most importantly, recipes. There is, in immigrant households, often a disconnect between the food we eat in the home, the food that we see in public, and the food we see in literature. I cannot, off the top of my head, give you a single example of the Gujurati food I grew up eating in the books I grew up reading. Cooking your way through this issue is a beautiful tribute to the people who don’t get to see themselves in print, the people who have preserved these recipes through generations. Below, three dishes to get you started.
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The Best Homemade Claypot Rice by Constance Lam
Claypot rice is a Cantonese dish often eaten in Hong Kong when the weather starts to become chilly: this recipe is ideal for winter, especially in the UK where it’s often cold and rainy. The best part of claypot rice is the crispy rice on the bottom of the pot! This recipe calls for a small clay pot, but if you don’t have one you can still cook the rice as you normally would, the rice just won’t crisp up.
For the rice:
- 1 cup rice
- 1 cup water (or enough to cover the rice)
- 200g boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
- 5-6 dried shiitake mushroom, pre-soaked
- Preserved Chinese sausage, sliced (optional)
- Soy sauce, to serve
- Spring onions, for garnish
For the marinade:
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 thumb minced ginger
- 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2-3 tbsp sesame oil
- 1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2-3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
To prepare the marinade, add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and Shaoxing wine into a bowl and mix. Place chicken thighs and mushrooms into the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Place washed rice in the pot and fill with water until the rice is covered (approximately a 1:1 ratio of rice and water), cover the clay pot and let the rice cook for 5 minutes on the stove, on medium heat. Then add the chicken and mushrooms (including 2-3 tablespoons of the marinade) and sausage into the pot. Cover again and cook for 15 more minutes.
Once the chicken is cooked, lower the heat and cover the pot. Rotate the pot every 2 minutes so there is even browning across the bottom of the pot.
After you have rotated the rice and all the ingredients are cooked, take the rice off the heat. For better flavour, let the rice sit for 10 minutes covered in the pot, but if you’re as impatient as I am, feel free to eat it. Garnish the rice with chopped scallions and a drizzle of soy sauce, and enjoy!
Yassa For One by Sophie Marie Niang
Best cooked while listening to Youssou N’Dour, probably Set (1990), although Joko (2000) is also acceptable, and Alsaama Day (2007), which is only available on YouTube, is very iconic if you can be bothered.
A disclaimer: no Senegalese dish is made to be cooked for one person. None. So this is not an authentic recipe. However, just like ordering Nigerian jollof when I’m in England gives me the *vibes* of my beloved thieboudienne, cooking this Yassa for One will give you the *vibes* of a good yassa. Said vibes, for me, reside in the sweet tanginess of the sauce, the juicy green olives (controversial), and the perfect bite of chicken, rice and onion sauce (which is even better when eaten with your hand, but realistically it is difficult to eat with your hand from a plate for one, so we’ll make do). There’s always a point where we have to cook for ourselves and ourselves only, and we should be able to enjoy a Yassa in these moments, so here goes. This dish can be made vegetarian – either make the sauce alone (same ingredients but skip the marinade) and have it with rice. Or use tofu instead of chicken. It works.
For the sauce:
- 2 yellow onions
- 3 limes
- A knob of ginger, peeled with the back of a spoon
- A red chilli, depending on how much heat you like
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves
- A spoonful of mustard (Dijon or French)
- A stock cube and a half (chicken or veggie)
- A handful of parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- Peanut oil
- A few green olives
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the chicken or tofu:
A thigh and a breast (you’ll have leftovers, and you’ll want leftovers), or 150-200 grams of firm tofu, pressed between some paper towels (or use your pressing method of choice). If you like breasts better, use two breasts. If you like brown meat, use two thighs. This is your Yassa for One.
For the rice:
White rice. Use your method of choice. Rice cooker is perfectly fine, so is pilaf rice with onions and stock (how I cook my rice). The only method that is not acceptable is mushy rice boiled in a pot of salted water as if it was pasta, because what is up with that?
The night before (or a couple of hours before, whenever you think about it), make a paste out of the ginger, garlic, mustard, parsley, stock cube, a spoonful of oil, chilli if using, and pepper, using either a blender of a mortar and pestle. Cut the chicken breast in half. You can take off the skin on the thigh, but that is optional. If using tofu instead of chicken, press your tofu. Rub in a generous pinch of salt.
Slice the onions thinly and add them to a bowl. Add the chicken or tofu. Cover with the lime juice, and the paste, add another pinch of salt and toss everything together (use your hands to rub in the flavour). Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge to marinate (a couple of hours, all day, overnight, you decide – the longer it marinates, the juicier it will be).
Post marinade: on medium-high heat, heat up some oil (a generous amount) in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid (or any pot with a lid). When the oil is hot (but not to the point of smoking), add the chicken (take it out of the bowl but keep all the marinade and onions, of course – that is the sauce and the main reason that we’re here) and brown the chicken (or tofu). You want it golden on the outside, and it’s fine if it’s not fully cooked through, as it will cook some more in the sauce later. Remove the chicken once it’s brown, and set it aside.
Turn the heat to low (if you’re using an electric hob, make sure that the temperature has actually gone down) or medium-low (if using the dream that is a gas hob), and add the onions (again, leaving the rest of the marinade in the bowl, we’ll use it soon). The onions need to “sweat off” in their own juice, not fry or burn, so keep an eye on them. Scrape up all the brown bits from the chicken and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are soft and jammy, and your kitchen smells like a dream (a good 15 minutes). Then add everything that’s left in the original bowl (the marinade), as well as a bay leaf, half of a stock cube, and half a glass of water. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Take off the lid, taste for seasoning, most likely adjusting with some black pepper and salt.
Add the chicken and cook for 10 more minutes. Turn off the heat, and add the green olives. Serve on a plate with some white rice. Eat the leftover sauce with more rice, or bread, or pasta, or maybe even potatoes – it’s delicious. Bon appétit!
Borani Banjan by Natasha Zahra Ahmed
- 1 or 2 aubergines
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tsp turmeric, to taste
- Green chillies, to taste
- Greek yoghurt, to taste
Peel the aubergines and slice into rounds. Put the slices on pieces of kitchen paper and sprinkle salt on top. Cover with another sheet of paper. Allow to rest for one hour, then dry off any excess water by blotting with the paper.
Heat up the pan with oil. When hot, place the aubergine slices in the pan and brown on either side. Remove the aubergines from the pan.
Mince the garlic and fry, being careful not to burn. Add the tomatoes, chilli, turmeric and salt to taste. Cook the tomatoes until the mixture bubbles.
Return the aubergine to the pan on top of the tomatoes.
Add a little water to the pan, then cook on a low heat for 20-25 minutes until its cooked through and there is no water left.
Add Greek yoghurt and green chillies on top.
The Food Issue of ‘Bad Form’ is out today, and available to order through the magazine’s website.
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