29 May 2020

Pancakes, dollops of Jiang and kale pesto: a new collection of recipes from our favourite creatives

As one of our contributors points out, there are many similarities between preparing a dish and readying a piece of design, so this week we dive into another set of creatives’ favourite dishes to cook at home.


29 May 2020


A few weeks back now, at the beginning of lockdown restrictions being introduced, we gathered together a group of creatives to find out what they were stirring over their stoves and carefully placing into their ovens. The reaction to our first collection of recipes affirmed our suspicions that our readers were just as obsessed with good grub as we are, with many of you sharing your attempts at Sam Youkillis’ or Ronan McKenzie’s cauliflower dishes.

Much of the world is still following some form of restrictions and, if you’re anything like us, you’re still cooking the same few dishes on rotation, depending on how many supplies are left from the weekly shop, or how much you’re feeling up to it. And so, due to popular demand, we’re back with a collection of new recipes – long and short, fresh and indulgent – from food-loving creatives around the world. Enjoy!


Ping Zhu: Grub Street

Illustrator Ping Zhu

Zhu Fam Zha Jiang Mian (aka Chinese Bolognese)

My family is from the north and western part of China, where we are big noodle consumers. Though there are pretty standard recipes out there for Zha Jiang Mian, this one has a small family addition that makes it a little bit more textural: potato. The result is saucy and full of flavour, and ready to eat in less than an hour! We usually make a pretty big vat of it at home, so whenever someone is feeling peckish, just boil up some water for the noodles and heat up a few dollops of Jiang and enjoy!


Serves 4-6

Note: All ingredients should be available at any Asian supermarket. The Jiang (sauce) can be found online if there isn’t one nearby.

  • 2-3 tbsp veg oil
  • 1 thumb of ginger, minced
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped and separate white from green
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 lbs ground pork
  • ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorn, ground
  • 2 tbsp of Tian Mian Jiang (sweet bean sauce)
  • 2 tbsp of Huang Jiang (yellow soybean paste)
  • 2 tbsp rice cooking wine (Shao Xing works great)
  • 2 medium potatoes (Yukon or russet), diced
  • 16 oz chicken stock, or bullion cube mixed with 16 oz of hot water
  • 1 pinch MSG
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch and water for mixing
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • Pack of fresh noodles, medium, thick or knife cut
  • Optional side veg:
  • Bok choy, to blanch and stir with sesame oil and salt
  • Julienne/mandolin peeled cucumber or radishes, serve raw

Ping Zhu: Taste


  • Heat veg oil in a dutch oven or large pot on med-high heat until glistening.
  • Add ginger, the white ends of the scallion, half of the garlic and stir until well coated.
  • Add pork and break into small bits to make sure it all gets cooked.
  • Turn heat down to med, while the pork is still pink in spots, add Sichuan peppercorn, both of the Jiang, rice cooking wine and stir until the pork is in small bits.
  • Once all the pork is browned, add diced potatoes and stir in until coated.
  • Add in chicken broth and stir. Let it cook for about five to ten minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  • While it cooks, in a separate bowl make the cornstarch mix.
  • Once potatoes are tender, mix in cornstarch, rest of the scallions and garlic, pinch of MSG and simmer for one to two minutes until sauce thickens. Turn off heat and let it sit.
  • Boil water for noodles in a separate pot, no need to salt. Cook noodles according to package, which is usually about three to four minutes.
  • While noodles are boiling, prepare the vegetables in whatever way you prefer. If blanching, you can use the post-noodle water.
  • Drain noodles (save water if blanching) and place in serving bowl. Scoop enough Zha Jiang into the noodles so it coats everything well. Don’t be stingy! Add veg to bowl and stir in. If you'd like it to taste more salty, add a splash of soy sauce! Enjoy!

Suggested beverages

Any lager, preferably Tsingtao.


Prarthna Singh: The Stainless Steel Dish Rack from Sār: The Essence of Indian Design


Prarthna Singh: The Stainless Steel Dish Rack from Sār: The Essence of Indian Design

Photographer Prarthna Singh

Peas and Potatoes Sabzi (Indian style) 

This simple but delicious sabzi has been a long-time favourite in our home. Even today, when I am heading back to my parents’ home, I often call my mum to let her know that I’ll need to eat Aloo-Matar for lunch. It can be made dry like this version or in curry form where you make a tomato, onion, garlic and ginger paste for it. Both styles are great and can be eaten with rice or fresh rotis (Indian flat-breads). The incredible thing is that you can probably visit any home across the country and I’m sure they would have different versions of making the same dish. These are the wonders of living in India, and being blessed with such a glorious variety of vegetarian food.


  • ¼ tsp cumin seed
  • ¼ tsp mustard seed
  • 2 green chillies
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 bowl of diced potatoes
  • 1 bowl of peeled green peas
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp raw mango powder
  • fresh coriander


  • Heat pan, add two teaspoon oil
  • On a medium/low flame add ¼ teaspoon of cumin seed, as soon as their colour changes add ¼ teaspoon mustard seed, ¼ tea spoon fennel seeds, two finely chopped green chillies (depending on your level of spice intake), one bowl diced potatoes and one bowl of peeled green peas.
  • Mix and cook for a minute on medium flame.
  • Then add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, salt to taste and mix well. Cover the dish and let it cook for five minutes, while stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Keep it covered and check if the potatoes have cooked. When they are soft, add half a teaspoon of chilli powder (again, depending on your spice intake).
  • Then add one tea spoon coriander powder and one teaspoon raw mango powder.
  • Mix well, cover and allow to cook.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of fresh coriander.

Best eaten with a side of basmati rice, daal and some mango pickle. A chilled mug of draft beer is the perfect accompaniment, followed by a post-meal nap, so any place with a comfy couch close by will be ideal.

Animator Angela Stempel

Benny’s Dutch Baby Pancake

I’ve been making versions of this Dutch baby pancake for almost a decade, since I found a recipe in my best friend’s old copy of the Joy of Cooking. The recipe originally calls for more sugar (¼ cup) and possibly a sweet topping, but since the lockdown I’ve been making it with my partner as a savoury lunch and treat. The toppings I’m suggesting are my dream scenario ingredients, but really it can be topped with anything you have at home that you think you’d like. The pancake itself is the star of the recipe and super simple and versatile, I think it could even be eaten just on its own... (It can).

Make sure you set the table in front of the window in your home with the loveliest view, and set it before the pancake comes out of the oven! It starts to deflate as soon as you take it out.


Angela Stempel: Benny’s Dutch Baby Pancake


(Makes one pancake, feeds one to two people)

For the pancake:

  • ½ a cup of milk
  • ½ a cup of all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of sugar
  • A pinch of ground fennel seeds (I pop mine in an empty peppercorn grinder to grind them)
  • 2 tbsp of butter

For the topping:

  • 6 thin sliced mushrooms
  • 3 sundried tomato rounds chopped into strips
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A healthy bunch of flat Italian parsley
  • A quarter cup of tangy goat cheese, crumbled


Preheat the oven to 425 °F (220 °C).

  • Set your cast iron pan on the burner at medium high and melt the butter. Careful not to burn it!
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the flour, milk, eggs, salt, sugar and ground fennel.
  • When butter has melted and the oven’s at the correct temperature, pour the batter in the pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or longer if you want a bit more crisp.
  • While the pancake is baking, sauté the mushrooms, garlic and sundried tomatoes in the olive oil.
  • When the pancake is done it inflates into a beautiful golden sculpture-like platter that climbs up the edges of the pan, an ideal place for the sauteed veggies.
  • Crumble over with the goat cheese and a sprinkling of parsley and you’re done!

Hato: Studio cookbook 2, edition 2

Hato studio founder Kenjiro Kirton

Japanese Pasta

Cooking is a big part of Hato’s culture. I often find that there are many similarities between preparing a dish and all its elements to the process of design and all the different parts that go into creating a whole concept or picture. Normally at the studio we receive a weekly shop and cook for one another every day on a rotation. It’s an opportunity to down tools and catch up socially, as well as to ensure we are all eating well.

This is something I have greatly missed since working from home, and although this recipe isn’t one that I have prepared for the team yet, I look forward to doing so. The dish is Japanese-Italian Miso Pasta. This style of Japanese food is one that my wife and I really enjoy on our visits to Japan and something that is quite hard to come by in the UK. It’s generally very easy to prepare as it just involves swapping some key Italian flavours with Japanese miso, soya, nori, sake, etc. and all these ingredients are long life.

At our house we have Ghibli films on repeat for our daughter. I would recommend eating this dish whilst watching Porco Rosso for its Italian theme and scenery. It’s also one of Rei’s favourites at the moment.


  • Miso Paste, ½ tbsp per person
  • 2 tbsp of butter per person
  • Pasta, spaghetti preferably, 100g per person
  • Himeji mushrooms are my favourite for this, but any mushroom or leafy green might work too.
  • Grated parmesan, a handful per person
  • Nori (dried sheets of seaweed)
  • Mirin (optional)


  • This dish is super quick so you can start cooking the spaghetti immediately. Boil a large pan of water, adding plenty of salt (this should be salty like the sea) and add the spaghetti once boiled. Cook until desired, my preference is al-dente.
  • Mix the butter and miso together in a small bowl.
  • In a frying pan begin to cook the vegetables in some vegetable oil.
  • Add the mixture of miso and butter and a splash of mirin, if you have any.
  • Add some pasta water into the frying pan and allow the vegetables to simmer gently
  • Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup full of the pasta water, and drain the pasta.
  • Put the pasta back in the pan and on the hob, cook the pasta adding in all the vegetables, pasta water and parmesan. At this point you need to stir quickly to mix everything together and create a creamy texture. Much like you would do for a carbonara.
  • Top with some shredded nori, you can sometimes buy this pre shredded, or take some clean scissors and cut the sheets into small strips.

Illustrator María Medem

Aja Blanco

This recipe literally means “white garlic” although it has more almonds than garlic, and it’s a fresh soup very popular in the eastern Andalucía, especially in Málaga and in Granada. It’s an ancient recipe, it’s known that they cooked it in Al-Andalus, and it seems that the Romans also drank it, because a very similar recipe appears in an Apicius’ book.

I came to know this dish some years ago, during a short travel stint while I was in university, because I’m from another part of Andalucía and here it’s not so typical. Since then, I very much like preparing it when the heat comes, so I think it’s a good recipe for May! For the colder months I enjoy another dish that has garlic as well, called Ajo Caliente – literally Warm Garlic – which is very popular in Jerez.


  • 200g crumbs of bread – preferably from the previous day
  • Water (half a litre, but it depends)
  • 150 ml extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 200g raw almonds, peeled
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 spoonfuls of vinegar
  • Salt
  • Grapes (the sweeter the better)


  • Leave the bread crumbs soaking in freshwater.
  • Grind the almonds with an electric mixer (traditionally everything was made with a mortar).
  • Mash the garlic (with a mortar if you have, if not the mixer works).
  • Add the mashed garlic to the almonds, and then add the soaked bread.
  • Grind the mix.
  • Once everything is mixed, with the mixer in motion, start adding the olive oil, as if you were making mayonnaise.
  • Now you can decide the thickness of the soup, some want it very, very liquid, that would be 1L of water, and some extremely thick so you can spread it on bread, that would be around 100ml. For me, half a litre of water works. Add the water gently, mixing well.
  • Season with the vinegar and salt, mix well again and put in the fridge for around three hours.
  • When serving it, add the grapes and some oil drops.

Photographer Elena Heatherwick

Good Eggs in Baku

Over the years, I’ve worked on various cookbooks. The word “work” is a funny one used in conjunction with what is essentially waiting for a delicious meal to be cooked for you, pointing a camera at it, pressing a button, and making sure that process is quick enough to ensure you get a hot (OK, maybe warm) plate of food at the end of it.

I’ve traveled to many countries under this guise of “food photographer” and the dishes that stay with me are the ones that are combined with happy moments shared with fellow hungry mouths. One such meal was after an oddly empty flight to Baku with the chef Olia Hercules. I was lucky enough to also have an assistant with me, Harry Seargent, who had everyone in stitches for most of the trip – I think that’s all I look for in an assistant. This was part of Olia’s book called Kaukasis where we travelled through Georgia and Azerbaijan collecting stories and recipes from local families.

Zulya’s home was our first stop on that trip and we weren’t sure how shooting a cookbook without the props stylist and food stylists would work out. But as Zulya started laying the table and bringing out dishes, it felt as if she was a one woman top team. It all came together before my eyes and once again all I had to do was (climb on a chair) point my camera, press a button and sit down for a wonderful breakfast.


(Serves six)

  • 120g clarified butter
  • 500g ripe tasty tomatoes, grated
  • Six eggs
  • Two garlic cloves
  • Salt and black pepper


Tomato scramble from Olia’s book: I love egg yolks. Whites in a fried egg – even though they are healthier for you – I never finish. Too rubbery. I do love scrambled eggs, though, and the combination of egg and sweet tomato. This recipe is perfect – tomato and white and egg yolks that remain whole and glorious, ready for your bread. They do this in Azerbaijan a lot. Normally they just scramble eggs with lovely tomato pulp, but my friend’s brother Farkhad, leaves the egg yolks whole! When I heard this, I knew it would be my favourite scrambled egg dish. This is all about the tomatoes, the eggs are almost an addition.

  • Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the garlic. Halve the tomatoes and put them in cut side down, cover with a lid and after ten minutes use tongs to take the skins off. Cook over a low heat, stirring from time to time, for about an hour. The butter will split and that’s when the sauce is ready!
  • Now the fun part begins. Crack the four eggs in and gently mix the whites into the tomato sauce, scrambling them leaving the egg yolks intact. Keep scrambling the whites with the tomatoes gently over a low heat until they have set to your liking and the yolk looks sufficiently heated through. Sprinkle some flaky sea salt over the yolks and add the herbs.
  • Eat squashing the egg yolks with some sourdough bread, wiping the plate clean with the bread at the end.

Never Now: Hector’s Deli

Creative director of Never Now Tristan Ceddia

Kale Pesto

Melbourne cafes went through this big oily pesto focaccia phase in the 90s which totally put me off traditional pesto. Kale pesto is a really fantastic alternative. It’s quick and easy, fresh, super healthy and goes well with pasta, vegetables, eggs, in a salad, on toast and so on. I love chilli so I always add extra. This recipe is adapted from Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite, my wife Adriana’s favourite cook book.


  • 250g Kale leaves
  • 25g butter
  • Four tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 10g flat leaf parsley
  • Two quality anchovies (drained)
  • Two garlic cloves, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 60g grated Parmesan
  • Chilli flakes (optional)
  • Salt


  • Wash your kale leaves by placing in a pot of boiling water for five minutes.
  • Drain the leaves and place in a blender with all other ingredients.
  • Blitz using the pulse button until roughly chopped.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and extra chilli flakes if desired.
  • This recipe serves four with pasta.

I like most food with a glass of red wine — nothing too fancy. If it’s summer, sometimes I’ll add a block of ice, or a slice of peach.


Mother Shanghai: The Big Dipper

The team at Mother Shanghai

The Big Dipper

If you’ve read our book (Gotta Cook), you’ll know we’re a bit lacking in the actual cooking skills department. So when asked to share a single recipe that not only the entire agency could agree on, but could also execute… well, let’s just say a turducken was out of the question. We did, however, want to experiment with the one thing that often gets overlooked in the cooking process but arguably is the most important when it comes to masking a poorly cooked dish.

Behold the ultimate dip. A myriad of flavours swirled into one ramekin to pair with whatever your heart desires. In this case, the humble sweet potato.


  • 1 large sweet potato – the more “crevasse-ey” the potato, the more dip-holding power
  • 300ml beer, draft
  • 1 slice ham of choice – we went with French for a bit more Je ne sais qois
  • Perilla leaves, finely diced
  • 1 cup lamb broth
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 curry cube
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Dried chilli peppers
  • 1 supreme hargow, cooked, to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Bake sweet potato in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until it can be forked. Set aside.
  • Heat lamb broth in a large pot. Once boiling, reduce heat and add beer. Cover and simmer until reduced to nearly half, then add curry cube. Stir until fully dissolved.
  • In a separate skillet, sear ham until slightly brown, adding in onions, garlic, and dried chilli peppers to stir-fry in residual fat. Season with salt and pepper then add to pot.
  • Keeping on low heat, stir in perilla leaves until wilted. Cover and simmer on low heat until sauce thickens. Aim for a congealed ketchup consistency.
  • Transfer to a ramekin and garnish with supreme hargow.
  • Serve with sweet potato.

Tip: If someone tries to eat your garnish, just tell them it will bring generations of bad luck. Nobody messes with The Big Dipper.

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.

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